The English Causative Structure with “Have” and “Get”
A Contrastive Analysis of the English Causative Structure with “Have” and “Get” and Its Translation Equivalence in Vietnamese
Tran Thi Thu Trang
Class 4A - English Department
HCMC University of Education
Supervisor: Dr Nguyen Ngoc Vu
December 27th, 2009
Table of Contents
PART 1: Introduction 3
PART 2: The Causative stucture in English 3
The Form of the Causative Structure with “Have” and “Get” 3
The Meaning of the Causative Structure with “Have” and “Get” 4
PART 3: THE vietnamese translation equivalence of the English causative structure 4
Usage 1: Tell or Arrange for Somebody to Do Something for You 5
Usage 2: Cause Something To Be Done to You by Someone Else 7
Usage 3: Suffer the Effects of What Somebody Else Does to You 9
PART 4: Discussion 11
PART 5: Implications in Language Teaching 12
Usage Problems 12
Translation Problems 12
Vietnamese into English. 12
English into Vietnamese 13
Usage Solutions 13
Translation Solutions 13
PART 6: conclusion 13
“Have” and “get” are among the most frequently used verbs that ESL learners are introduced to since the very beginning of their study. However, these two verbs are really confusing because they appear in various structures in which they take on different meanings. One of the structures that learners usually make mistakes in their translation is the causative structure with “have” and “get”. In this essay, I will explore the different meanings of these two causative verbs in English and their translation equivalence in Vietnamese. The final parts of this paper are attributed to the discussion and implications in language teaching.
The Causative stucture in English
The causative is a common structure in English. It is used when one thing or person causes another thing or person to do something (“Causatives,” 1999).
A causative verb is a verb that denotes causing something to happen. According to Haines and Stewart (2000), it refers to actions which a person arranges for someone else to do rather than doing themselves (p. 136). In English, a wide variety of verbs can be listed as causative, some of which are “have, get, make, let” … (McArthur, 1998). However, in this paper, only the two most popular causative verbs “have” and “get” are referred to.
The Form of the Causative Structure with “Have” and “Get”
There are two basic causative structures. One is like an active, and the other is like a passive (“Causatives,” 1999). The form of these structures is shown in table below.
The Form of the Causative Structure with “Have” and “Get”
S + HAVE + Agent + bare inf.
S + HAVE + Object + past participle
S + GET + Agent + to inf.
S + GET + Object + past participle
“Have” and “get” are sometimes interchangeable although “get” is usually more informal (Haines & Stewart, 2000, p. 136).
The Meaning of the Causative Structure with “Have” and “Get”
Basically, the causative structure with “Have” and “Get” is used to express the following meanings:
Tell or arrange for somebody to do something for you
Cause something to be done to you by someone else
Suffer the effects of what somebody else does to you (Hornby, 2005)
When the two languages are compared, it can be seen that the causative structure in English has no semantic equivalence in Vietnamese; therefore, this paper will hereafter focus on the Vietnamese translation equivalence of the causative structure in English.
In Vietnamese, “have” and “get” are usually translated as “có” meaning “own or possess something”. However, this translation sounds very unnatural and is incapable of expressing the meaning of ‘having something done’ (you do not perform the action yourself).
Now let us look back at the usage of causative in comparison with the Vietnamese equivalence. In each usage, the translation for the usage will be worked on first; then, this translation for the causative structure will be applied in the word-for-word translation for each example followed by a translation equivalence (if any). Some brief note on the differences of the two translations will also be given and finally is the discussion based on all the examples in one usage.
Usage 1: Tell or Arrange for Somebody to Do Something for You
Meaning: Bảo / kêu hay thu xếp / sắp xếp cho ai làm một việc cho bạn
In usage 1, the verbs that appear to be suitable for translation are “bảo”, “kêu”, “thu xếp” or “sắp xếp”. Now we will look more closely at some examples.
We had the carpenter fix our window (“Causatives,” 1999)
(Chúng tôi kêu thợ mộc sửa cửa sổ.)
Chúng tôi kêu thợ mộc đến sửa cửa sổ.
The sentence will sound more natural if we add the word “đến” although it is not present in the original sentence. However, the two sentences are both meaningful and quite similar in their meaning.
She got him to dig away the snow (Thomson & Martinet, 1986, p. 122).
(Cô ấy kêu/bảo anh ta cào hết tuyết.)
Cô ấy kêu/nhờ anh ta cào hết tuyết.
Susan had her brother do her homework (“Causatives,” 1999).
(Susan kêu anh/em trai làm bài tập về nhà.)
Susan nhờ anh/em trai làm giúp bài tập về nhà.
While the word-for-word translation sounds rather like a request or an order, the translation equivalence carries the meaning of asking for help which corresponds to what is really meant in the original sentence.
The police had the suspect stop his car (“Causatives,” 1999).
(Cảnh sát bảo nghi phạm dừng xe.)
Cảnh sát yêu cầu nghi phạm dừng xe.
The first translation is meaningful and natural enough but it misses the meaning of forcing somebody to do something as understood in this context.
How can parents get their children to read more? (“Let/Make/Have/Get,” n.d)
(Làm thế nào để cha mẹ bảo con cái đọc thêm?)
Làm thế nào để cha mẹ khuyến khích con cái đọc thêm?
The government TV commercials are trying to get people to stop smoking (“Let/Make/Have/Get,” n.d).
(Các chương trình quảng cáo của nhà nước đang bảo/kêu mọi người ngưng hút thuốc.)
Các chương trình quảng cáo của nhà nước đang kêu gọi mọi người ngưng hút thuốc.
In examples 5 and 6, the causative verb “get” does not merely mean to tell or arrange for somebody to do something, but it somewhat conveys the meaning of encouraging or convincing somebody to do something. Therefore, verbs like “bảo” or “kêu” should not be used. Instead, the causative verb should be translated as “khuyến khích”, “kêu gọi”, or maybe “thuyết phục”.
As we can see from the examples above, “thu xếp” or “sắp xếp” are hardly used. In examples (1) and (2) in which the topic is on services that people pay for, “kêu” or “bảo” as in the translation for the usage are quite suitable verbs to be used for the causative structure. However, in other cases, how to translate the causative structure depends very much on the context of the saying. “Nhờ, yêu cầu, khuyến khích, kêu gọi” are among the most appropriate ways to make the translation equivalence in Vietnamese. Sometimes the naturalness of the translation should also be considered as in example (1) “đến” is added although this element cannot be found in the original text.
Usage 2: Cause Something To Be Done to You by Someone Else
Meaning: Làm cho một việc gì đó được thực hiện cho bạn bởi một người khác
In this usage, the word-for-word translation sounds fairly foreign and confusing. A Vietnamese can hardly figure out what is meant by this definition; therefore, proper translation must be context-based.
I have my hair cut every six weeks (Haines & Stewart, 2000, p. 137).
(Tôi làm cho tóc được cắt mỗi sáu tuần)
Tôi cắt tóc mỗi sáu tuần.
She’s had her ears pierced (Haines & Stewart, 2000, p. 137).
(Cô ấy mới làm cho lỗ tai được xỏ lỗ)
Cô ấy mới xỏ lỗ tai.
You can have your photographs developed here (Haines & Stewart, 2000, p. 137).
(Bạn có thể làm cho hình rửa tại đây)
Bạn có thể rửa hình tại đây.
Anthony had a tattoo done on his left arm (Haines & Stewart, 2000, p. 137).
(Anthony có hình xăm được làm trên cánh tay trái)
Anthony xăm hình trên cánh tay trái.
The causative verbs are not translated, only the past participle verbs appear in the translation equivalence. Consequently, the passive meaning is not clearly expressed in Vietnamese. Although the translation sounds active rather than passive, Vietnamese can absolutely understand that the action is not done by the subject but by another person. However, admittedly, this active translation is confusing in meaning; therefore, when the Vietnamese want to emphasize the passive meaning (the action is done by someone else), they may use some extra words like “đi” (“go”), or “đem … đi/đến” (“bring/take something to…”) or change back to the structure “cho/ kêu người …” (“have somebody do something or get somebody to do something”). Look back at the examples above:
(7) Tôi đi cắt tóc mỗi sáu tuần.
(8) Cô ấy mới đi xỏ lỗ tai.
(9) Bạn có thể đem hình đến rửa tại đây.
We now consider the following examples:
I always used to repair the car myself, by these days I have it repaired at the local garage (Haines & Stewart, 2000, p. 136).
(Lúc trước tôi thường hay tự sửa xe, nhưng gần đây tôi hay làm xe được sửa ở ga-ra địa phương.)
Lúc trước tôi thường hay tự sửa xe, nhưng gần đây tôi hay đem xe đi sửa ở ga-ra gần nhà.
We’re going to get the house painted – it’s too much for us to do ourselves (Haines & Stewart, 2000, p. 136).
(Chúng tôi sắp làm ngôi nhà được sơn - việc đó quá nhiều để chúng tôi tự làm.)
Chúng tôi sắp cho người đến sơn nhà – chúng tôi không tự làm nổi.
To sum up, for this usage, the causative verb can be ignored as illustrated in examples (7) to (10), or we can emphasize the passive meaning by adding some extra words like “đi” (“go”), or “đem … đi/đến” (“bring/take something to…”) as in (11) or change back to the structure “cho/ kêu người …” (“have somebody do something or get somebody to do something”) as in (12).
Usage 3: Suffer the Effects of What Somebody Else Does to You
Meaning: Chịu tác động của việc người khác gây ra cho bạn
The causative structure in this case is used to refer to events like accidents or disasters which happen to someone but which are outside their control.
Hugh had his car stolen last weekend (Haines & Stewart, 2000, p. 137).
(Cuối tuần rồi, Hugh có xe bị mất)
Cuối tuần rồi Hugh bị mất xe.
He had his telephone disconnected because he didn’t pay his bill (Haines & Stewart, 2000, p. 137).
(Anh ấy chịu tác động của việc điện thoại bị ngắt/cắt do anh ấy không trả tiền hóa đơn.)
Anh ấy bị ngắt/cắt điện thoại do anh ấy không trả tiền hóa đơn.
We had our roof torn off in the storm (Haines & Stewart, 2000, p. 137).
(Chúng tôi chịu tác động của viếc mái nhà bị tốc trong cơn bão.)
Chúng tôi bị tốc mái nhà trong cơn bão.
George had his nose broken in a fight (Murphy, 1994, p. 90).
(George có mũi của anh ấy bị gãy trong một lần đánh nhau.)
George bị gãy mũi trong một lần đánh nhau.
Of course, this structure does not mean the subject arranges for somebody to steal the car (13), disconnect the telephone (14), tear off the roof (15) or break his nose (16) but in these cases, the causative structure is like a passive. This passive meaning is clearly expressed through the presence of the word “bị” in all the examples.
However, the subject in the original English sentence does not necessarily the subject in the Vietnamese translation.
The cat had her tail singed through sitting too near the fire (Thomson & Martinet, 1986, p. 122).
(Con mèo có cái đuôi bị cháy do ngồi quá gần đống lửa.)
Con mèo bị cháy đuôi do ngồi quá gần đống lửa.
Đuôi con mèo bị cháy do nó ngồi quá gần đống lửa.
Similarly, this subject change can also be applied in the previous examples:
(14) Điện thoại bị ngắt do anh ấy không trả tiền hóa đơn.
(16) Mũi của George bị gãy trong một lần đánh nhau.
All in all, the meaning of “suffer” is signified by the element “bị” in all Vietnamese equivalence. Sometimes a subject change can occur: the object in the original sentence turns to be the subject in the Vietnamese translation.
The causative structure in English has no semantic equivalence in Vietnamese. Many different lexical items can be used to make Vietnamese translation equivalence but there is no fixed verb or word that can be used as a causative verb like the case in English.
The question ‘How to translate the causative structure?’ cannot be answered in a single sentence. In order to make proper translation, we should take into consideration the two factors: usage and context. Given a causative structure, we should first identify which usage (among the three ones listed above) the sentence falls into and at the same time pay attention to its context. Failure to consider these two factors may lead to translation that may be totally wrong or foreign sounding.
As for the usage, if it belongs to the first usage ‘tell or arrange for somebody to do something for you’, some suggested ways to translate causative verbs are “kêu”, “bảo” or “nhờ, yêu cầu, khuyến khích, kêu gọi”.
If it falls into the second usage ‘cause something to be done to you by someone else’, the causative verb can be ignored as or in order to emphasize the passive meaning we can add some extra words like “đi” (“go”), or “đem … đi/đến” (“bring/take something to…”) or change back to the structure “cho/ kêu người …” (“have somebody do something or get somebody to do something”).
In the last usage ‘suffer the effects of what somebody else does to you’, “bị” are used to express the misfortune that happened to the subject. One special thing to remember is that the subject in the original English sentence does not necessarily the subject in the Vietnamese translation. Sometimes it sounds even better if we change the object of the English sentence into the subject of the Vietnamese translation.
As for the context, since life changes and is full of unexpected situations that no one can foretell, there is no fixed formula to rely on not only when working with causative structures but in the translation work as a whole. Only a correct and full understanding of the context can help to make good translation. However, interpretation of one specific circumstance varies from person to person, so here only personal gut can help individuals to make their own best translation.
Implications in Language Teaching
Causative structures are very popular and frequently used in English; however, it is quite unfamiliar with Vietnamese students. Vietnamese has no equivalent structure meaning that ‘you do not perform the action yourself’. As a result, students, if not taught about this carefully, usually face the following problems:
Students may not understand the usage of the causative structure or they may understand it when seeing it in books but they cannot use it effectively in their speaking or writing.
Vietnamese into English.
Vietnamese students tend to use the SVO structure “I’ve just cut my hair” rather than the causative structure “I’ve had my hair cut” when they are asked to give the English translation equivalence of “Tôi mới cắt tóc”.
English into Vietnamese
Vietnamese students may find it difficult to apply an appropriate way to translating causative structures due to the variety ways of translation as discussed in this paper.
Teachers should draw learners’ attention to the core meaning of causative structures ‘you do not perform the action yourself’ and notify students of the popularity of this structure in English.
Vietnamese into English
It is advisable that teachers frequently remind students of using causative structures when they talk about services or actions that are not performed by themselves.
English into Vietnamese
It is a good idea for teachers to get students to bear in mind that context is of great importance in translation. Students must understand the meaning in English first, then question themselves ‘How do a Vietnamese convey such an idea in our own language?’ The focus changes from translating a structure into finding out how to make an idea fully understood.
Causative structures, though popular in English, are so new to Vietnamese learners. Therefore, much emphasis should be put on this part so that students are able to make use of this structure in the appropriate context and to give natural Vietnamese translation equivalence regarding causative. In order to translate causative structures, learners must first understand their usage, consider the structure in context and try to find an equivalence that best demonstrates the core meaning of the original sentence. With these in mind, students’ translation of causative structures will surely improve.
Causatives. (1999). Retrieved December 2, 2009, from http://web2.uvcs.uvic.ca/elc/studyzone/410/grammar/caus.htm
Haines, S & Stewart, B. (2000). Landmark (Intermediate Student’s Book). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Hornby, A.S. (2005). Have. In Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary International Students’ Edition (7th ed., p.686). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
McARTHUR, T. (1998). Causative Verb. Retrieved December 23, 2009 from http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O29-CAUSATIVEVERB.html
Murphy, R. (1994). English Grammar in Use (2nd ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Thomson, A.J. & Martinet, A.V. (1986). A Practical English Grammar (4th ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.