"Need [to be] [adjectival phrase]"

Dennis R. Preston preston at MSU.EDU
Sat Apr 3 12:41:11 UTC 2004

Both these features - need/want plus past participle and need/want
plus particle/adverbial phrases (not adjectives) - are spread far
beyond Pittsburgh. The best source for need + past participles is
Frazer, Murray, and Simon, "Need + past participle in American
English," AS 71:255-71 (1996); for want + past participle, see Murray
and Simon, "Want + past participle in American English" AS 74:140-64

Particles and adverbial phrases after need and want have been the
subject of much less work but are now fully treated in Benson. This
Girl Wants Out, PhD Dissertation, Linguistics, Michigan State Univ.,
2003. (Good bibliography for participle as well as particle/adj.
phrase constructions with want, need, and even like [see PS].)

The observation that "The cat wants in" is unremarkable does not
account for the remarkability of "Move your damn car; I want (need)
around" and other Midland oddities treated by Benson.


PS: Murray and Simon also treat like + pp in AS77:32-69 (2002).

>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

Dennis R. Preston
University Distinguished Professor
Department of Linguistics and Germanic, Slavic,
        Asian and African Languages
Wells Hall A-740
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824-1027 USA
Office: (517) 353-0740
Fax: (517) 432-2736

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