Many languages I know of have a way of making causative constructions. For example, English uses "make" or "have": I make you do something or have you do something, or even cause you to do something. How do you do that in Latin?

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    A relatively common construction in Latin is to use the verb curare. If "I do this" is hoc facio, then "I have someone do this" is "hoc faciendum curo". To my knowledge this construction is impersonal in the sense that you cannot indicate who you make do the job. (If you think that this answers your question to some extent, I can convert this to an answer.)
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Jul 9, 2016 at 18:30
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    In addition to hoc faciendum curo (I have someone do this) we have hoc tibi faciendum est (you have to do this). Both are relatively common, but I have never seen these structures combined into hoc tibi faciendum curo and I am not convinced that it would be grammatical. Perhaps you are confusing these two structures?
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Jul 9, 2016 at 18:44
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    That link suggests efficere with a final ut clause. This sounds like a good idea. Would using a subordinate clause be tolerable for you? The structures you have in English (or Finnish for that matter) do not need an additional clause and are therefore "lighter" than an ut clause.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Jul 9, 2016 at 19:07
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    I wonder why that article doesn't mention fugio/fugĕre "to flee" and fugo/fugare "to cause to flee".
    – Cerberus
    Commented Jul 9, 2016 at 23:29
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    @Cerberus: I guess because it's an isolated case, like English fall/fell, lie/lay and rise/raise.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Mar 13, 2019 at 11:55

5 Answers 5


A relatively common construction in Latin is to use the verb curare. If "I do this" is hoc facio, then "I have someone do this" is "hoc faciendum curo". To my knowledge this construction is impersonal in the sense that you cannot indicate who you make do the job.

There is a way to indicate who has to do something, and it is called the passive periphrastic conjugation and formed with esse, dative and gerundive. For example, hoc tibi faciendum est is "you have to do this". This structure does not typically indicate why the thing has to be done, but a causal ablative can always be added:

Meo iussu hoc tibi faciendum est.
"Due to my order you have to do this."

This is not far from saying te hoc facere iubeo or "I order you to do this". Therefore it does not feel like the causative as much as you might want.

I have never encountered the combination hoc tibi faciendum curo. It could perhaps be used for "I make you do this", but without context my first reading might be "I have someone do this for you" with a dative of benefit instead.

A heavier option is to use a final ut clause with efficere or some other suitable verb:

Effeci, ut hoc faceres.Effeci, ut hoc tibi faciendum esset.
I did so that you do this. — I did so that you have to do this.

The English translations are a bit clumsy, but I wanted to emphasize the Latin structure.

I think none of these ideas exactly matches either of the English causative structures you mention, but they should offer a decent toolbox for expressing similar ideas in Latin.

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    I think the last suggestion is the most direct parallel of the English in the OP's question. Note that this also can work with just facio, e.g.: "Faciam ut hic senex . . . sibi uxorem poscat." (Plautus)
    – brianpck
    Commented Jul 10, 2016 at 2:57
  • According to you, Joonas, "this construction hoc faciendum curo is impersonal in the sense that you cannot indicate who you make do the job". I (tend to) agree with you. However, since the verb curo can also be found as taking an Acc+infinitive clause (interestingly, typically with a passive infinitive), I was wondering if this construction can also (i.e., additionally) be understood/analyzed as hoc faciendum (esse) curo with the ellipsis of esse. In this case (and only in this case!), i.e., assuming that there is an ellipsis of esse, would a "dative of agent" be possible?
    – Mitomino
    Commented Apr 27, 2020 at 1:11
  • @Mitomino Sounds possible, but I have never seen it. I think I would actually be likely to misread the dative for a dative of benefit. See the added paragraph "I have never...". That ACI reading of hoc faciendum curo had not occurred to me before, but it makes sense. The only way out of these speculations would be to find attested Roman causatives.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Apr 27, 2020 at 6:40
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    It seems that the more idiomatic (and more frequent) construction hoc faciendum curo (where faciendum is just a predicative adjective, whereby a "dative of agent" is impossible there) somewhat "preempts" the possible but, probably, unattested Acc+infinitive construction hoc faciendum (esse) curo (only the latter could allow a dative of agent). The "sounds-possible-but-is-probably-unattested" can sometimes be a bit frustrating but such is life when dealing with a textual language like Latin. Pace Chomsky, when dealing with Latin, "nihil est in lingua quod not prius fuerit in oratione".
    – Mitomino
    Commented Apr 27, 2020 at 23:50

In addition to the excellent answers, I'll add the construction facere ut + subjunctive.

We see it all over in Plautus, e.g. Bacchides:

Propterea hoc facio, ut suadeas gnato meo
ut pergraecetur tecum, tervenefice.

All over in Cicero, e.g. Pro Cælio:

Quæ tu omnia tuis foedis factis facis ut nequiquam velim: vix ferendi.

And so on. The construction seems, as far as a quick look through the corpus indicates, to be used more impersonally than personally, but personal uses abound.


In medieval Latin, habere came to express (also) ability or obligation. I'd have to dig up an example, but I see it in Ockham with some (minor) frequency.

However, it is also mentioned in Elliott's 'Brief Introduction to Medieval Latin Grammar' in Medieval Latin, ed. Harrington, rev. Pucci (Chicago, 1997), § 7.2.2, citing (e.g.) Tertullian, Apologeticum 37:

Si inimicos, ut supra diximus, iubemur diligere, quem habemus odisse?

Edit. As pointed out in a comment, the above construction is not, strictly speaking, a 'causative clause'.

As far as I know, there is no special 'clause' in Latin that qualifies, but consider this examples (from Bradley's Arnold, § 131):

Per te stetit quominus vinceremus (You were the cause of our not winning the day)

In the 'General Vocabulary', he also gives:

per me fit ut = I am the cause of

More common, I think, would be the following (based on examples in Cassell's Latin Dictionary):

  • facere or efficere plus ut and the subjunctive;

  • cogere plus the infinitive;

  • movere -- risum homini movere (to make a person laugh);

  • excitare; and

  • dare and exhibere (usually translated, in this context, as producing/causing something -- not making someone do something)

The two examples in Joonas Ilmavirta's answer are also quite relevant, of course.

  • This isn't a causative usage, though -- it's not "whom do we cause to hate?" but "whom do we have to hate?"
    – TKR
    Commented Jul 11, 2016 at 0:30
  • Indeed, which is why I wrote of obligation, and did not say it was a 'causative clause'. However, by implication, the 'whom must we hate' is 'caused' by God's order. The idea is clearly: if we are ordered to love our enemies, then whom are we ordered to hate? I think the idea is analogous; and I do not think Latin has a (special) 'causative clause', though that does not mean it cannot express it in various ways. I'll add some other examples....
    – jon
    Commented Jul 11, 2016 at 0:54

I'm unsure to what extent this was used, but one can find the following causative construction, facere + inf., in Book II of the Aeneid:

Quī nātī cōram mē cernere lētum / fēcistī [...]
You, who made me watch the death of my son

Aeneid, II.538-539

I would perhaps be cautious about using this outside the realm of poetry; Lewis & Short, also citing Vergil, lists this construction as "rare" (under I.A.γ):

With inf. = efficere, curare, to cause (rare): nulla res magis talis oratores videri facit, Cic. Brut. 38, 142; Pall. 6, 12: aspectus arborum macrescere facit volucres inclusas, Varr. R. R. 3, 5, 3; Sall. Fragm. ap. Sen. Ep. 114: qui nati coram me cernere letum Fecisti, Verg. A. 2, 539; Ov. H. 17, 174: mel ter infervere facito, Col. 12, 38, 5 (perh. also in Ov. H. 6, 100, instead of favet, v. Loers. ad h. l.; cf. infra, B. 4.).

  • You can also do fac + a subjunctive with similar effect.
    – cmw
    Commented Jul 22, 2022 at 2:46

Just wondering about the following construction in Jerome's 4th century translation Psalterium iuxta Hebraeos, Psalm 23 (or Vulgate 22):

"in pascuis herbarum adclinavit me"

It seems causative to me.

My knowledge of Hebrew is lousy, but the original (Bin'ot deshe yarbitseini) seems to be causative, as is the English translation He maketh me to lie down in green pastures" (KJV).

According to my Oxford Latin Dictionary, acclino = "to cause to lean on, stay upon."

Likewise, inclino is "to cause to lean".

What is it about the CLIN- root and/or derived verbs that has a causative meaning?

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    You could describe acclino as semantically causative, in the same way that e.g. English put can be described as meaning "cause to be located". But it isn't formally causative (as the Hebrew verb is).
    – TKR
    Commented Apr 27, 2020 at 0:28

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