The Causative Faire

February 17, 2013 § Leave a comment

This is the French equivalent to having something done or to make someone do something.  To form it, the construction is

*faire + infinitive*

The teacher has the students talk.  –  Le professeur fait parler les étudiants.
He’s having a house built.  –  Il fait construire une maison.

This is pretty basic good grammar.  When we add in object pronouns or different tenses, we have a tendency to overthink how to put the sentences together.  The main thing to keep in mind is that the “faire” is the main verb so to treat any sentence construction as normal stuff, and to do all the conjugation and pronoun placement around the “faire”.

a.  When one is having something done to oneself, make the action reflexive. To put it in passé composé, use être as your auxiliary verb since it’s now a reflexive case.

to get one’s hair cut – se faire couper les cheveux
She’s getting a haircut – Elle se fait couper les cheveux.
Fred got a haircut – Fred s’est fait couper les cheveux.

b. When putting in a pronoun, put it before the “faire” (or in a composed tense, put it before the auxiliary verb that is used with the faire)
When there is only one object, it is treated as a direct object

The teacher has them talk. – Le professeur les fait parler.
Mom cooked the cake. Maman a fait cuire le gâteau. Mom cooked it – Maman l’a fait cuire.

When you add in a second object, the first direct object becomes an indirect object.

Le professeur fait chanter les enfants. Le professeur les fait chanter.
Le professeur fait chanter la chanson aux enfants. Le professeur leur fait chanter la chanson.
Le professeur la fait chanter aux enfants.
Le professeur la leur fait chanter.

c. When in composed tenses, there is no agreement with the past participle – just leave the “fait” alone.

Je les ai fait chanter.
Je leur ai fait chanter la chanson.
Je l’ai fait chanter aux enfants.
Je la leur ai fait chanter.

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