English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

When you are looking at a task remaining, it seems right to me to say, "what needs to be done" in the simple present tense.
I have seen some people write "what is needed to be done."

While I don't know what is wrong in the second sentence, it doesn't seem alright.

Can you tell me why is it wrong?

share|improve this question

There is slight difference in meaning between the two sentences. "What needs to be done" indicates a list of items which must be completed, but does not necessarily indicate that the bigger project will be done when those tasks are complete. "What is needed to be done", on the other hand can imply that when the list is complete, the project will be done. In effect, the first sentence says "we must do these things", and the second says "when we do these things, we will be done".

In either case, the second sentence is a bit ambiguous. I would use "what needs to be done" for the first case (when you simply have a list of tasks that must be completed). If the intent is to describe all of the outstanding tasks for a given project (the second case), I would use a more explicit sentence such as: "everything that needs to be done" or "things that must be done in order to finish this project".

share|improve this answer
I think you should also note that in the second case something is needed by someone (me, us or somebody else). In the first case nobody directly needs these deeds. – Basil Peace Oct 12 '13 at 9:26

i think both are correct. Both are simple present tenses, the first is in active sentence, the second one is in passive. Not sure if there is any difference of context though.

share|improve this answer
Welcome to EL&U, meryl. We appreciate your input. We also appreciate links to sources (in Answers) where applicable. – medica Jan 1 '14 at 8:07

What is needed to be done is incorrect because needed is the simple past tense and past participle of need.

What needs to be done is correct because needs is the third-person singular simple present indicative form of need.

share|improve this answer
Why do you think "is needed" is incorrect? – Marthaª Mar 31 '11 at 19:24

Second sentence is correct. It just implies that we have not done the task, it should have been done and once we do it, we will be done.

share|improve this answer

I think the first sentence is right because it is showing any task which must be completed, although the second sentence is showing the same thing but in passive voice.

share|improve this answer

protected by tchrist Feb 26 '15 at 2:17

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.