Faire Causatif or Causal Faire
Making Other People Do Things for You
Table of Contents
- I. The Low-Down on the “Faire Causatif”
- II. The “Faire Causatif” Presented at More Length
I. The Low-Down on the “Faire Causatif”
A. The Low Low-Down
The Faire causatif is used when a person has somebody else perform an action.
It corresponds to two different constructions in English:
- to have something done
- to have somebody do something
- “I have the song sung” > Je fais chanter la chanson.
- “I have Marie sing.” > Je fais chanter Marie.
The order is the same in both cases:
faire + infinitif + nom
This is the construction, regardless of whether it is the direct object or the subject of the infinitive that follows the infinitive!!! (Believe It Or Not!)
B. Complications, Complications
So…you may be wondering…What happens if you replace either subject or direct object by a pronoun?
You end up with: the same thing!!!
- “I have it (=the song) sung.” > Je la fais chanter.
- “I have her (= Marie) sing. > Je la fais chanter.
Both the subject (alone) and the direct object (alone) are treated as if they were direct objects (that is, they are replaced by a direct object pronoun, la.)
But then (you may ask), What happens if you have both a subject and a direct object present in the construction???
To take a perfectly random example:
- “I have Marie sing the song.”
In that case, the French language, with what seems like total arbitrariness, … puts the subject into the indirect object case!!!
- Je fais chanter la chanson à Marie. (!!!)
– which we might interpret as: “I have the song sung, with regard to Marie (as the subject of the singing).”
C. Tell Me No More!
But – Wait (you say)! How do you distinguish then between
- “I have Marie sing the song.”
- “I have the song sung to Marie.”
– since the indirect object “case” usually expresses what is, in fact, an indirect object? Couldn’t these be expressed the same way?
And the answer is: Yes!!! (See II.B below)
II. The “Faire Causatif” Presented at More Length
Regardless of whether you mean: “I have a thing done” or “I have somebody do a thing,” the order will always be:
1. faire + 2. infinitif + 3. nom + (4. à + nom)
- The verb faire, usually in a personal form, always with a personal subject (je, tu, il/elle/on, etc.); followed by
- A simple infinitive; followed by
- A noun, either the subject of the infinitive (if there is no direct object) or the direct object of the infinitive; the direct object can be followed by
- The subject of the infinitive, in the indirect object case.
Possibilities are thus:
A. When One Noun Follows the Infinitive
This noun can be either the subject or the direct object of the infinitive.
1. faire + infinitive + subject
- Je fais chanter Robert = “I have Robert sing.”
- Elle fera venir le médecin = “She will summon the doctor.”
- Elle a fait suer son mari = “She made her husband sweat.”
2. faire + infinitive + direct object
- Je fais chanter la chanson = “I have the song sung.”
- Elle fera ouvrir les portes = “She will have the doors opened.”
- Elle a fait peindre la maison = “She had the house painted.”
Note that the same same structure in French corresponds to two quite different structures in English.
|to have someone do…||faire faire quelqu’un|
|to have something done||faire faire quelque chose|
However, if you think of faire as “to cause,” the two situations can be unified thus:
1. cause a person to act
- I cause Robert to sing
- She will cause the doctor to come.
- She caused her husband to sweat.
2. cause (someone unnamed) to accomplish something
- I cause (someone) to sing the song.
- She will cause (someone) to open the doors.
- She caused (someone) to paint the house.
Both Uses Illustrated by a Naughty Six-Year-Old
She is Gizelle, (anti-?)heroine of a play by Sophie Rostopchine, Comtesse de Ségur (Les Caprices de Gizelle). She bosses around her (very young) aunts and their cousins, which she can do because she has her mother and a feckless and rather wicked servant wrapped around her little finger. As she is planning, once again, to abuse her young companions, her mother warns:
Léontine. Elles vont encore te faire pleurer.
(They’re going to make you cry again.)
To which Gizelle responds:
Gizelle. Si elles me font pleurer, je les ferai gronder.
(If they make me cry, I’ll make them be scolded.)
In the language proposed immediately above, this would be: “If they cause me to cry, I will cause [someone] to scold them.” Both pronouns, me and les, are in direct object case, although the first serves as subject of the infinitive pleurer, whereas the second serves as (true) direct object of gronder.
When the older and wiser brother of the persecuted sisters comes to rescue them, he tells the misbehaving Gizelle:
Pierre. Tu n’auras ni Blanche ni Laurence, ma chère amie; et tu ne pourras plus les faire pleurer et les faire enfermer. (You will have neither Blanche nor Laurence, my dear friend; and you will no longer be able to make them cry and get them locked up.)
Happily, by the end of the play all peccant characters: Gizelle, her overly-fond mother and father, and the servant, are all on their way to being corrected of their faults. Or else they have been dismissed from service.
(You can check out the works of the Comtesse de Ségur at fr.Wikisource.org.)
B. When Two Nouns Follow the Infinitive
1. Direct object stays direct object; Subject → indirect object
Both the subject and the direct object of the infinitive can be present at the same time. Usually (but not always) the subject will come second, and it will be treated as an indirect object:
faire + infinitive + direct object + subject (as indirect object)
The orders of the French and English constructions compared:
|1 “cause”||2 “somebody”||3 “to do”||4 “something”|
|1 “cause”||3 “to do / be done”||4 “something”||2 “by somebody”|
|1 faire||3 faire||4 quelque chose||2 à quelqu’un|
Note the following ambiguous cases.
Example 1: Elle fait peindre son mari.
“Mari” could be either subject or direct object of the infinitive:
- “She causes her husband to paint, has/makes her husband paint,” or
- “She causes (someone) to paint her husband, She has her husband painted.”
If both subject and object were present, the ambiguity would disappear:
- Elle fait peindre la maison à son mari. (She has her husband paint the house.)
Example 2: Elle fait réciter le poème au prince.
“Prince” can be either the subject of the infinitive, or a genuine indirect object:
- “She causes the prince to recite the poem.”
- “She causes (someone) to recite the poem to the prince.”
If the first of the two is meant, the ambiguity can be removed by replacing the preposition à with the preposition par:
- Elle fait réciter le poème par le prince.
This construction with par is used particularly when the subject is a person who does the action for a living.
- Elle fait réparer la voiture par le mécanicien. (She has the mechanic fix the car.)
However, the pronoun equivalent for par le mécanicien will still be the indirect object (see the following section):
- Elle lui fait réparer la voiture. (She has him[/her] fix the car.)
C. Where Are You Putting That Pronoun Object?
Pronoun objects are placed in front of the faire causatif, not in front of the infinitive, the usual place for pronoun objects.
In other words, in contrast to
- Elle veut le voir. (She wants to see him.) 1
you will have
- Elle le fait venir. (She causes him to come.)
The order of pronoun objects will follow the usual rules:
- le, la, les before lui, leur
- me, te, se, nous, vous, se before le, la, les
D. Some Cases for Study
1. Having Somebody Recite Or Having Something Recited
An ambiguous sentence: Elle le fait réciter. It can mean either:
- “She has him recite” OR
- “She has it recited.”
– corresponding to these two sentences:
- Elle fait réciter le poète. (She has the poet recite.)
- Elle fait réciter le poème. (She has the poem recited.)
Less ambiguous are these sentences:
- Elle me fait réciter = “She has me recite.”
“She has me recited” is unlikely, so we go with me being the subject of the infinitive.
- Elle le lui fait réciter = “She has him (or her) recite it.”
The lui being (most likely) the subject of the infinitive, the le has to be direct object.
2. When the Direct Object Is a Noun Clause
Elle lui a fait remarquer que l’heure était venue.
= “She caused him to observe that the the hour had come.”
> “She observed to him that the hour had come.”
A direct object of the infinitive is present in the above sentence; it is the noun clause que l’heure était venue. Consequently the subject has to be put in the indirect object case.
In academic prose a nous subject (in indirect object case) is sometimes implied with verbs like observer, remarquer:
L’auteur fait remarquer que Milton était déjà aveugle à cette époque.
Implied is that the auteur nous fait remarquer (the author causes us to remark). However, since, in English, we don’t cause other people to remark but do the remarking ourselves, you will normally translate L’auteur (nous) fait remarquer as simply “The author remarks.”
L’auteur fait remarquer que Milton était déjà aveugle à cette époque.
(The author / points out / observes / remarks / that Milton was already blind at that time.)
E. Expressions Made With Causal “Faire“
|Je lui ai fait savoir que la cérémonie aurait lieu le lendemain.
(I informed hurrim that the ceremony would take place the next day.)
(to show a place to s-b,
to take s-b on a tour)
|Elle fera visiter la ville à ses amis.
(She will take her friends on a tour of the city.)
(to remark, i.e., to cause somebody else to remark=notice)
|Il fait remarquer que ce roman n’a pas de héros.
(He observes that this novel has no hero.)
(to emphasize, to bring out)
(literally, to cause to come out)
|Il a fait ressortir l’art avec lequel ce poète allie forme et fond dans ses œuvres.
(He brought out the artful way in which this poet combines form and content in his works.)
|Il a fait venir l’astrologue.
(He summoned the astrologer.)
(to show, i.e., to cause s-o to see)
|Il fera voir l’appareil aux scientifiques.
(He will show the device to the scientists.)
|se faire couper les cheveux
(to get one’s hair cut)
|Elle s’est fait couper les cheveux.
(She / had / got / her hair cut.)
Je dois me faire couper les cheveux.
(I’ve got to have my hair cut.)
|se faire avoir
(to let o-s be taken in)
|Je me fais avoir.
(I let myself be taken in.)
- But in older (17th-century) French you will find: Elle le veut voir.↩
Wonderful, detailed explanation. Thank you so much!