General Question

tekn0lust's avatar

Have you observed this English language issue?

Asked by tekn0lust (1861points) April 7th, 2009

Lately, I have see people write and say phrases like “needs done” as opposed to “needs to be done”. Is this slag/shortcut or is this correct?

Break it down for me.

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43 Answers

tigran's avatar

haven’t seen it

SpatzieLover's avatar

Nope. I haven’t every read about this. Did you see this from a teacher?

cookieman's avatar

Perhaps similarly, I wonder about “come with” as opposed to “come with me”.

drClaw's avatar

I have noticed it too, more and more (especially in blogs). I don’t think it is slang, but instead a function of interactive communication. People have gotten used to abbreviating everything they type so much so that it is no longer unreasonable for someone to leave the “to be” out of “needs to be done.”

qualitycontrol's avatar

I’ve never heard “needs done” but I have heard people say it “needs doing” and other similar phrases like “it come out” referring to how something ended up. I think English is pretty flexible like that. I live in Boston, some people here don’t even know what they’re saying..

tejano_me's avatar

one that drives me crazy is “go by x’s” or “stay by x” meaning “go to x’s house” and “stay at x’s home” use such phrases and i think it’s basically urban slag, but when i hear adults use such phrases it drives me nuts

morphail's avatar

According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage, this is a regional variant found in the “Midland area” of the USA.

tekn0lust's avatar

This phrase is weird to me because “needs” implies hasn’t yet happened. Yet “done” implies finished.

It may be one of those things where it’s a phrase that sounds cool, so people use it to sound different.

@morphail I wonder where “midland area” is? I’m in Texas but I see it all over the Internet too.

Harp's avatar

This usage is common in the Ohio-Pennsylvania border area. Other examples:

“My car needs washed”, “That house needs painted”

I have a Pittsburgher friend who uses this all the time.

bpeoples's avatar

@Harp – was about to answer the same thing. Leaving out “to be” is a polish or german structure (can’t remember which) that made it into the local dialect.

The best was a notice on a show bulliten board about a prop: “SYRINGE NEEDS FIXED”

Jeruba's avatar

It’s a regionalism. It means “needs to be done” or “needs doing.” You may have been seeing it lately, but it isn’t recent—just common only in certain areas. (“Needs to be done” and “needs doing” are perfectly grammatical.)

Jeruba's avatar

“Come with” (with no object) and “stay by someone” are literal translations of German usages and commonly arrive in English by way of Yiddish.

Strauss's avatar

@jeruba, I’ve seen that usage spill over from Slovenian, Croatian, and other Slavic languages as well.

I remember listening to my grandma and an aunt having a conversation and slipping seamlessly from Slovenian to English and back again without a break in conversation

cookieman's avatar

@Jeruba: Thanks for clearing that up. “Come with” is used a lot by this comic book writer I enjoy (Brian Bendis). He’s a self proclaimed “little Jewish guy” – so that would explain it.

Jeruba's avatar

@cprevite, in German, you’d say “Kommen Sie mit” for “Come with me” even though the “me” isn’t there in the German. Many of my Jewish friends say it just that way, too: “Do you want me to come with?” or “I didn’t bring any money with.” Similarly, in German you’d say “bei uns,” meaning “at our house” or “with us,” but when this comes over into English as “by us” it is no longer idiomatic.

@Yetanotheruser, interesting to know that this construction appears in several other European languages. Thanks for adding to my understanding.

Strauss's avatar

@Jeruba, why are we whispering?

Jeruba's avatar

Because it’s a little bit off topic, I suppose. I just followed you.

Nimis's avatar

Me three.
Wait. What are we talking about?

Jeruba's avatar

Hi, Nimis. We’re whispering in the corner. Did somebody bring the matches?

Nimis's avatar

We were supposed to bring stuff? Crap.
<—[ woefully ill-prepared for this whispering sesssion]

cookieman's avatar

s’okay…I got a lighter

Jeruba's avatar

I just know we’re going to get in trouble for this. And Asmonet isn’t even here.

cookieman's avatar

well I hope she shows as she’s got the stuff

Jeruba's avatar

Did you give her the message?

cookieman's avatar

d’oh. you may have to. I’m on an iPhone and can’t link to the thread. (tell her to bring the stuff).

Jeruba's avatar

uh-oh, I think we broke it!!!

Strauss's avatar

I’ve got some papers here…

Jeruba's avatar

Dear Asmonet,

We waited for you, but you didn’t come. Nimis thought it looked like rain and went off to find an umbrella, Yetanotheruser sat in the corner reading a dictionary and fell asleep, and cprevite got called home for dinner. It was getting pretty late for me, too. So we had to cancel. Next time please let us know if you aren’t going to show up.


P.S. I hope this note doesn’t come down before you find it. The only gum I had was sugarless.

Nimis's avatar

I’m ready for those April showers now!
Hey…where’d everyone go?

asmonet's avatar

This thread made me so sad, first for the slang, and now because I was not aware of the awesome. :’(

Dear Gang of Whisperers,
I regret my absence, I was run over by a pack of wildebeests, much like Mufasa. Despite sustaining severe injuries, I have made a miraculous recovery. I hope to join you on our next adventure.

P.S. And I’ll bring some spare umbrellas.

Strauss's avatar


cookieman's avatar

shhhhhh. dude! – you’ll wake the dead with a racket like that.

asmonet's avatar

Christ, my ears!!

Strauss's avatar

oops! sorry! temporary insanity!

LexWordsmith's avatar

@Jeruba : i apologize for going so far back in the thread, but “Kommen Sie mit” could also be parsed as part of the conjugation of “mitkommen” (to come along). That might give us some insight into how, historically, German developed its use of separable prefixes.

Jeruba's avatar

@LexWordsmith, that’s what I had in mind with that verb. I was just giving the form of it that’s parallel to the English construction, or rather, I think the English parallels it literally, even though there’s no counterpart for the infinitive. But I don’t see how that leads to an inference about separable prefixes. Can you elaborate? I have not studied the history of German at all, except where it intersects with that of English. Maybe MattBrowne will show up and comment.

LexWordsmith's avatar

Perhaps “Kommen Sie mit mir” first degraded, in common usage, to “Kommen Sie mit.”
Next, various forms of “komm….mit” were used so frquently as to become felt as a verb form rather than as a combination of a verb and a preposition.
Then the new verb need to back-form an infinitive, but “zu kommen mit” felt awkward; hence, mitzukommen.

All just speculation, of course, and no doubt a committee of philologists will be at my door shortly, looking to flay me. :-(

Strauss's avatar

@LexWordsmith Seems like you don’t want to Kom-mit to a explanation now.~

LexWordsmith's avatar

Yes, it does seem that i might be afraid of what “commit” meant.<grin>

Dutchess_III's avatar

ROFLLLLing! Glad I stumbled on this!!

sahID's avatar

It seems I have heard people say something “needs done” off & on for years. I have chalked it up to either a regional or a generational form of condensed speech because I only heard it from older people. It does not sound grammatically correct to me, so it has always grated on me just a bit, but not enough to say anything.

However this omission of connective words from phrases is getting out of hand. While I can let condensed phrases like “needs done”, “needs washed” etc slide, the increasingly frequent extensions “graduated high school” & “graduated college” feel like fingernails on a chalkboard to me. I mean, how much time & energy does it take to say the ford “from”?

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

It sounds like something Tarzan would say. What “needs done” is the insertion of a noun and a linking verb.

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