"Need [to be] [adjectival phrase]"

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Sat Apr 3 07:41:53 UTC 2004

Here in Pittsburgh (and elsewhere too, although I think the acceptability
drops off with increasing distance from the 'Burgh), there is the very
conventional construction "need [past participle]" for "need to be [past
participle]"; e.g., typically folks around here will say "This needs
washed" for the more standard "This needs to be washed" (or "This needs to
get washed"). There are also analogous constructions with "want", "like",
etc. (less prevalent).

In a few instances I've heard the analogous construction with an adjectival
phrase which is not a past participle. Today I heard "This needs on the
list" for "This needs to be on the list". [Note that "This needs put on the
list" is perfectly ordinary here.]

I've never heard a 'pure' adjective used in this way AFAIK: e.g., I've
never heard "You need careful" for "You need to be careful" or "I want
sure" for "I want to be sure".

How does the construction compare with something like "The cat wants in"
for "The cat wants to get in"? [Either of these would have been
unremarkable in my Detroit youth, but Pittsburgh-style "The cat wants fed"
would have been absurd in Detroit in my judgement.]

-- Doug Wilson

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