Causative Speaking Warm-up (Pair-work)

Skill focus: Speaking & Grammar via sentence transformation

Grammar: (Active) Causative (verbs make, get, have, help, let)

ESL Level: Intermediate and Upper-intermediate

Materials needed: one worksheet (folded) for each pair.

Activity Download: causative-warmup-pairwork-ESL.docx

Time Required: 15 minutes

After teaching the nuts and bolts of the (active) causative, you can use this activity as a warm-up for the next class. In essence, a student reads a sentence to his/her partner; the partner then rephrases the sentence by using a causative form. For example:

Student A: Yesterday my boss forced me to work overtime.

Student B: Oh. So you’re saying that your boss made you work overtime?

Student A: Yes, exactly.

To complete this activity, students must know that verbs like ‘allow’ correspond with the modal ‘let’, ‘force’ corresponds with ‘make’, and so on. For the purposes of the activity, the auxiliary verbs get and have are treated as the same.

Note 1: If you’d like your students to also practice reported speech in the activity as well, you could change the rephrasing/clarifying prompt from “So you’re saying that…” to “Did you say that…?” which would require the back-shifting of the main verb that accompanies reported speech.

Note 2: If you are looking for a more creative and fun speaking activity, I recommend this family meeting role-play for practicing the active causative.

Active causative activity preview

Causative Activity Sample (Web-based)

(Download .docx format here)

Causative – make / have / get / let / help + verb

Ask your partner to rephrase the below sentences with a causative verb. Use a dialogue similar to the one below to rephrase the statements.A: Yesterday, I forced my husband to clean the bathtub.

B: So you’re saying that you made him clean the bathtub?

A: Exactly!

*note: have and get are similar in meaning


Student A

  1. I allow my son to drink beer. (…you let your son drink beer?)
  2. I give help to seniors when they cross the street sometimes. (…you help seniors (to) cross the street sometimes?)
  3. I couldn’t persuade my father to go to the dentist. (… you couldn’t get him to take…?)
  4. The police caused him to confess. (… the police had him confess/ got him to confess?)
  5. The government did not allow us to travel abroad. (… the government didn’t let you travel abroad?)
  6. I think my boss is going to force me to work overtime this weekend. (… your boss is going to make you work overtime this weekend?)
  7. Whenever I hear that song, I cry. (… the song makes you cry?)


Student B

  1. I convinced the company to give me a refund. (… you got the company give you a refund?)
  2. They allow her to wear traditional clothing. (…. they let her wear traditional..)
  3. When I smell curry, I think of India. (… curry makes you think of India.)
  4. We decided not to force our children to eat all their vegetables. (… decided not to make your children eat all their vegetables?)
  5. I caused my lawyer to send me the documents. (… you had your lawyer send / got your lawyer to send you the documents?).
  6. If students need help finding a job, the employment centre helps. (… the employment centre helps students (to) find a job?)

I hope you find this activity useful for your ESL classes.

— Created by Matthew Barton of (copyright)

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