A question from Saeksan from Thailand:
I just read a piece of news about the use of fire works to celebrate Easter in Greece, and found a sentence as follows:
"A sixty-eight year old dealer had his warehouse raided this week and the police confiscated nearly a million and a quarter bangers, rockets and firecrackers."
My question is that this sentence uses the structure called:
"have something done" = have + something+ participle verb.
This sentence usually means that a person needs to do something but that thing is done by someone else, e.g. "I just had my hair cut today" means I needed to have a hair cut and someone did it for me, not, I did it myself.
In this case, the police raided the warehouse of the dealer when he did not ask for it at all. Why was this structure used in this sentence? It's supposed to go like this: 'The police raided the ware house of a dealer and confiscated...' isn't it?
Rachel Wicaksono answers:
Thanks for your question, and well done, because reading news stories is a great way to keep your English up-to-date - and it's good to see you're thinking about the relationship between form and meaning in the texts you read!
Now the sentence you mention...
"A sixty-eight year old dealer had his warehouse raided this week and the police confiscated..."uses the passive voice.
"A sixty-eight year old dealer had his warehouse raided this week...?
Now, choosing to use either the active voice or the passive voice is one of several possible ways of organising information in a sentence or clause.
This particular example of the passive voice uses the 'have + pseudo-passive' voice to make the person (a sixty-eight year old man) affected by the action (raiding the warehouse) the grammatical subject.
Now, this has the effect of making the sixty-eight year old man the starting point of the message, which is a good technique here, as the owner of the warehouse is the focus of this story. So he's the person who the writer wants us to be immediately interested in. As you say, the pseudo-passive helps the writer focus on who or what is most important in the story. The form of the pseudo-passive is:
have + object (clause) + the ?ed participle.
Other examples of this form are:
'Clara had her essay checked by another student in her class before handing it in to the teacher.'
'My teacher had her briefcase stolen yesterday, with all our essays inside.'
Now, you may notice a difference in the meaning of these two sentences, although they both use the pseudo-passive form.
The first sentence:
'Clara had her essay checked by another student in her class before handing it in to the teacher'...is causative.
Clara made it happen; she asked another student to check her essay.
The second sentence:
'My teacher had her briefcase stolen yesterday, with all our essays inside'... is non-causative.
The teacher (the subject) didn't mean or want to have her briefcase stolen; in fact she was probably extremely annoyed! So here, by non-causative, we mean that the action was not the subject's intention or aim.
I think this distinction between causative and non-causative is what your question's about.
Now onto your example:
"I just had my hair cut today"...
as you say, means that someone cut your hair for you. You made it happen, perhaps because you thought it needed cutting.
However, as you can see from my second example,
'My teacher had her briefcase stolen yesterday, with all our essays inside'...
it is also possible for the pseudo-passive form to describe NON-causative actions that we don't want or need.
So, back to the sentence from the BBC news report, by way of summing up...
"A sixty-eight year old dealer had his warehouse raided this week and the police confiscated nearly a million and a quarter bangers, rockets and firecrackers"
I'm pretty sure that the man did NOT aim to have his warehouse raided by the police. The writer of the news story, a BBC correspondent, therefore uses a pseudo-passive non-causative form to make the sixty-eight year old owner the starting point of the message; he's the focus of the story. But the correspondent's also letting the reader know that the raid on the warehouse was not the owner's idea!
So, the pseudo-passive is a way of organising information in a sentence, to highlight the importance of the person or thing which the writer wants us to focus on in the story. And remember, it can be used to describe both actions that the person or thing wants or needs, or doesn't want or need.
Rachel has taught English and trained teachers in Indonesia, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, Japan and the UK. She is an IELTS examiner and a trainer and assessor for the Cambridge ESOL Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults. Currently, Rachel works at York St John University where she is Head of Programme for the MA English Language Teaching and the International Foundation Certificate.
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