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Causative Verb

A causative verb is a grammatical category or form that expresses the way in which time is denoted by the verb.

Introductory information

A causative verb essentially indicates that one person has caused a change to occur to some other person. In English, the main causative verb is actually not "cause" itself, but rather "made." Although you can rephrase most "made" statements into "cause" statements, doing so may tend to sound awkward and/or overly formal.  

Causative Verb - Proper usage

Here is an example of the causative verb being used correctly in a sentence. 

"The mother made her small son eat cauliflower, because she had heard a news report about how this would help develop a strong immune system through proper nutrition."

In this sentence, the causative verb "made" is being used in a proper fashion. 

Now, here is an example of the causative verb being used in an incorrect way

"The grass made the Sun send light toward it, because otherwise it would become impossible for the grass to continue growing."

This is incorrect usage because, unless a special context is intended, the causative verb "made" does not express an accurate relationship between the grass and the Sun. 

In case you're still a little confused, here are a couple rules that can help clarify the correct use of the causative verb. 

  1. The causative verb always expresses a relation of change between one thing and another thing. Moreover, it always has a direction: one thing makes something happen to another thing. If no such relationship is present, then no causative verb is present. 
  2. Whether a verb is a causative verb or not can sometimes depend on the context of use. This is because the sometimes the same verb can express a relation or not. For example, "making" a work of art is non-causative; but "making" someone do a chore is causative. 

Causative verbs and cultural significance

The causative verb is related to cultural expectations about the nature of causality. For example, in the past, people believed that doing a rain dance would actually make it rain. So, they would have said that their actions made the sky rain. In that statement, "made" would be causative verb, since one thing (the people) made another thing (the sky) perform a certain action. These days, though, few people would believe that there was any causal relationship present in this situation. They would, rather, say that the rain was simply a coincidence. The causative verb thus depends first of all on the perception of some relationship of causality. 

More broadly, the very fact that the causative verb is an important part of grammar is probably reflective of the nature of the human mind. As the philosopher Kant pointed out, causality may not necessarily be a part of the true nature of reality itself; but it definitely is essential to the way that human beings perceive reality in their everyday lives.

When a phenomenon occurs, people tend to try to explain in causal terms, so that they can potentially predict (and thereby to some extent control) the consequences and implications of the event. The causative verb is necessary for expressing such relations between things. However, it should perhaps be borne in mind that the causal interpretation of phenomena says more about the human mind itself than about the actual phenomena being described by such an interpretation. 

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