Causative verbs are used to cause or influence people to do things. In English, these are verbs like "make," "let," "have," and "get," as in "get Billy to eat dinner." The "get" is the causative verb.
The most common causative verbs in Chinese are:
- 让 (ràng)
- 叫 (jiào)
- 请 (qǐng)
- 使 (shǐ)
Make sure to take note of the different meanings and levels of formality. For example, 使 (shǐ) and 让 (ràng), when used as causative verbs, basically mean the same thing (to make), but 使 (shǐ) is used in more formal or written Chinese, while 让 (ràng) is used more in spoken Chinese.
Subj. + [Causative Verb] + Person + Predicate
The predicate part of the pattern can be a verb or an adjective.
"Make" vs. "Let"
It's worth noting that 让 is the most common causative verb in spoken Mandarin and is often translated into English as either "make" or "let." It may seem strange to speakers of English that these two very different words are the same word in Chinese. "Make" is kind of like forcing, and "let" is kind of like allowing, right? But in Chinese, the understood concept generally makes clear how willing the object of the causative verb is. It's just something that takes time to get used to.
- 你 为什么 不 让 我 去 ？Why wouldn't you let me go there?
- 这 部 电影 让 人 很 感动 。This movie really moves people.
- 那个 老人 让 我 想到 了 我 爷爷 。That old man makes me think about my grandpa.
- 他 不 听话 ，你 叫 我 怎么办 ？He wouldn't listen to me. What are you expecting me to do?
- 他 偷偷 约 别的 女孩 ，你 叫 我 怎么 想 ？He secretly asked other girls out. What are you expecting me to think?
- 你 儿子 在 学校 的 表现 叫 老师 很 头疼 。Your son's behaviors at school give the teacher a lot of headache.
- 我 想 请 你 帮 我 一 个 忙 。I want to ask you to do me a favor.
- 能 不 能 请 你 明天 照顾 一下 我 的 狗 ？Can I ask you to look after my dog tomorrow?
- 他 的 演讲 使 听众 们 非常 激动 。His speech made the audience very excited.
- 经济 危机 使 很多 公司 倒闭 了 ，也 使 很多 人 失去 了 工作 。The financial crisis caused lot of company out of business, and many people lost their job because of this.
Sources and further reading
- Yoyo Chinese: The word "rang"
- Chinese: An Essential Grammar, Second Edition (pp. 170-2) →buy
- Integrated Chinese: Level 2, Part 2 (pp. 120-1) →buy
- 卓越汉语－公司实战篇 (pp. 19) [ →buy]