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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?

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4 Answers

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".

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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
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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.

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

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Why do you think "is needed" is incorrect? –  Marthaª Mar 31 '11 at 19:24
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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.

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