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  1. #1
    kwfine is offline Banned
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    Default Is it grammatically correct to write: I had a thief steal my car

    Dear teachers,

    I watched a video clip on the EnglishTown web site. In the video clip, a young man was telling the police:
    "I just had a thief steal my car. "

    I am thinking why it is not "I just had a thief stolen my car., because his car was stolen by a thief.


    Please help, teachers.

    Thank you.

  2. #2
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    Grumpy is offline Senior Member
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    Default re: Is it grammatically correct to write: I had a thief steal my car

    In this case, "steal" is correct. It is the infinitive without the "to", and it is used this way after certain verbs like "let", "watch", "see", "hear", "make" and several others. If the young man had said "I just saw a thief steal my car", I'm sure you would not have thought anything of it.
    I'm not sure that the expression "I just had a..." is grammatically correct, but it's often used in colloquial speech, and it certainly merits the use of the "infinitive without the 'to' " after it. Personally, I would have told the police that "A thief has just stolen my car".
    I'm not a teacher of English, but I have spoken it for (almost) all of my life....

  3. #3
    emsr2d2's Avatar
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    Default re: Is it grammatically correct to write: I had a thief steal my car

    If I wanted to start the sentence with "I just had ...", I would say "I just had my car stolen [by a young man in ripped jeans and a balaclava]".
    "I just had a thief steal my car" sounds to me as if you arranged and organised the theft, perhaps for insurance purposes.

    In all of those examples, you could start with "I just had ..." or "I've just had ..."
    Remember - correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing make posts much easier to read.

  4. #4
    Raymott's Avatar
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    Default re: Is it grammatically correct to write: I had a thief steal my car

    Quote Originally Posted by emsr2d2 View Post
    "I just had a thief steal my car" sounds to me as if you arranged and organised the theft, perhaps for insurance purposes.
    ...
    Hmm, maybe. How about, "I just had a couple of mormons knock on my door"?

  5. #5
    Grumpy's Avatar
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    Default re: Is it grammatically correct to write: I had a thief steal my car

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    Hmm, maybe. How about, "I just had a couple of mormons knock on my door"?
    That Mitt Romney certainly gets around...
    I'm not a teacher of English, but I have spoken it for (almost) all of my life....

  6. #6
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: Is it grammatically correct to write: I had a thief steal my car

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    Hmm, maybe. How about, "I just had a couple of mormons knock on my door"?
    I too don't think it necessarily implies that we arranged it- we can use the causative when things, often bad ones, happen to us:

    He had his head kicked in.

    It is possible that he arranged it, but the more likely explanation is that he was beaten up without being involved in the planning or arranging.

  7. #7
    Barb_D's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is it grammatically correct to write: I had a thief steal my car

    The original does soun like it was arranged. "He had a thief steal his car" certainly sounds like the makings of an insurance scam to me.

    But "He had his car stolen by a thief" sounds like this unfortunate thing happened to him.

    So "He had his head kicked in by a couple thugs" is different than "He had a couple thugs kick his head in." (First: How sad for him. Second: Does he have a death wish?)

    I'm at a loss to explain the missionaries though. That makes sense as-is. Maybe it's the "just."
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

  8. #8
    emsr2d2's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is it grammatically correct to write: I had a thief steal my car

    I agree with Barb that the addition of "just" seems to make it clear that you are talking about an event.

    I've just had two religious fanatics knock on my door.
    I've just had a thief drive off in my brand new car!

    I would like to add that using "stolen" and "a thief" seems somewhat tautologous.

    "I/I've just had my car stolen" is surely enough, unless you are going to describe the person who did it (ie using their appearance). Since it is unlikely that your car was stolen by cat, or a small child, or a hot air balloon, surely it can be assumed that the person who stole something is a thief. After all, that is what thieves do - they steal.
    Remember - correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing make posts much easier to read.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Is it grammatically correct to write: I had a thief steal my car

    I'm still not entirely convinced. "I've just had my hair cut." Does the "just" imply that it was involuntary?

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Is it grammatically correct to write: I had a thief steal my car

    No, not at all. For me, the "just" allows that interpretation, though. And maybe it just comes down to having a sense of what the speaker intended and a wee dose of common sense about how the world works.
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

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