Who’s the Boss? A speaking activity to practice the passive causative

Click here to listen to my introduction to today’s activity on the passive causative.

Less than a year ago, I was almost stumped by a question about causative verbs. In Student Stumper 24, I explored what causative verbs are and the patterns they follow. I also offered two communication activities with causative verbs.

Students continue to keep me on my toes, and now I’ve been asked to address causative verbs in passive constructions. Hm. Yes, I admit, I did leave the passive causative out of my earlier discussion. Let me remedy that by tackling the topic today.

The student asked me if the following questions had the same meaning: What do you want done with this? / What do you want to do with this? I called attention to the difference between active and passive voice. In the second statement, the agent likely includes the person being addressed. “Want to do” is active. In contrast, “want done” is passive and the first statement implies that the agent will be someone other than the person being addressed. The second is an example of the passive causative. The passive causative expresses actions done by other people according to arrangements we make. Agreed?

Often we seem to limit our teaching of the passive causative to [get/ have + object + past participle + (agent)]. However, as the student’s question reminded me, there are other verbs. Want and need come to mind. I haven’t been able to identify others that follow the same pattern, so for now, I’d state the passive causative as being [causative verb (get/ have/ want/ need) + object + past participle + (agent)].

I suppose other patterns could be addressed such as causative verbs in the passive followed by the infinitive (e.g., He was allowed to leave early.) However, in the activity I’m sharing today, it makes sense to limit students’ focus to one pattern. This allows them greater opportunity to internalize the structure and contextualize its usage.

Please view my Who’s the Boss_handout.


6 Comments Add yours

  1. Nina Liakos says:

    Hi Jennifer, A colleague asked me to explain the Ving forms in the following sentence:
    He doesn’t like to waste time sitting around talking and drinking coffee. Are they gerunds or participles? What are their roles in the sentence? I have to admit I am stumped. Can you shed any light on this?

    1. Ooh! Another grammar question. Hooray! Let’s make this the next Student Stumper! Check back soon for the answer (or at least my attempt to explain this). Thanks, Nina.

  2. poorchap says:

    hi jennifer
    i am really confused to distinguish between gerunds and participles and participle phrases.lots of examples written in the grammar book ‘ english grammar and composition ‘ written by wren and martin, are really cofusing. i hope you would get hold of this book and go through all the examples. i dont have a scanner otherwise i would have sent a copy of it to go through it.with regarde

    1. Hello,
      I’m not familiar with the book you mentioned, but the topic of gerund vs. present participle is a familiar one. 🙂 Have you read Student Stumpe 28? I think one main thing to remember is that gerunds are also called verbal nouns. They act like nouns. We can’t say the same about participles. Also, you can think of a gerund as expressing “the action of” or “the activity of”. = I like cooking = I like the activity/ action of cooking. A present participle has an active or transitive meaning: Cooking is interesting. [gerund + linking verb + participial adjective]. “Interesting” describes cooking. Cooking has the ability to interest me. It can affect me. Please feel free to share confusing examples and we can discuss them.

  3. Thanks for sharing your idea! I loved it!! I’m trying to use it to practice causative passive tomorrow with upper-inter to advanced esl. I tell you later how it worked!

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