causative verb

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

causative verb
"Causative verbs are used to describe an action that is necessary to cause another action; for example, 'The devil made me do it.' In this example, made causes the do to happen" (Administrative Assistant's and Secretary's Handbook, 2014). (Skye Zambrana Photography/Getty Images)


In English grammar, a causative verb is a verb used to indicate that some person or thing makes (or helps to make) something happen. Examples of causative verbs include make, cause, allow, help, have, enable, keep, hold, let, force, and require. Also known as a causal verb or a causative.

A causative verb, which can be in any tense, is generally followed by an object and another verb form—often an infinitive or a participle.

See Examples and Observations below. Also see:


Examples and Observations

  • "Causative verbs are those verbs that describe events involving an agent whose actions bring about a certain change of state in some entity"
    (Alessandro Duranti, Linguistic Anthropology. Cambridge University Press, 1997)
  • "I've forced them into confessing that they're sad, grey, lost, forgotten, dead and damned forever."
    (Dylan Thomas, letter to Bert Trick, July 1935)
  • "Art is the lie that enables us to realize the truth."
    (Pablo Picasso)
  • "I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over, and I've seen the Promised Land."
    (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., speech at the Masonic Temple in Memphis, Tennessee, April 3, 1968 )
  • Allows and Lets
    In the two sentences below, notice that the causative verb allows is followed by an object (students) and an infinitive (to e-mail . . . to share), while the causative verb lets is followed by an object (students) and the base form of the verb (select).

    - "Ms. Gonzales also allows her students to e-mail her with important, class-related, or funny information they find in everyday life—this allows her students to share their lives with her in many ways."
    (Cathy Collins Block and John N. Mangieri, Exemplary Literacy Teachers, 2nd ed. Guilford Press, 2009)

    -  "Nakamura lets her students select the materials they want to read either for pleasure or information."
    (Kathryn H. Au, Literacy Instruction in Multicultural Settings. Harcourt, 1993)


  • Make as a Causative Verb
    - "The convention in present-day linguistics is that a grammatical label should be based on a word of Romance origin—hence 'causative.' From this has arisen the misconception that cause is the protypical causative verb in English. It is not; make is. Cause is a causative verb but it has a more specialized meaning (implying direct causation) than make and it is much less common. Make differs from most other causative verbs, and from most other verbs that take to complement clauses, in that it omits the to in active clauses, although to must be included in the passive. (Compare The nurse made me swallow it with I was made to swallow it (by the nurse)."
    (Francis Katamba, Morphology. Routledge, 2004)

    - "Remembering the pawn ticket for the silver dish, Woody startled himself with a laugh so sudden that it made him cough."
    (Saul Bellow, "A SiIver Dish." The New Yorker, 1979)

    - "No attempt was made to actively cool the spacecraft's exterior during its fiery plunge through the atmosphere, the heatshield being more than adequate to protect the structure."
    (W. David Woods, How Apollo Flew to the Moon. Springer, 2008)