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I just revised a program comment from:

This needs to come out eventually.


Does this need to come out?

In both cases "this" is functioning as a third-person, singular, demonstrative pronoun (granted, out of context and, thus, without antecedent). In this case, "this" refers to a set program statements.

My question, why does "needs" become "need" in the second sentence?

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@Robusto - Having had to remind myself of what "auxiliary" verbs I note that rearranging the sentence and, because you should be able to ignore the auxiliary verb, yields "This need to come out." Which, is, of course, "wrong". –  Wes Miller Mar 8 '12 at 13:34
Silly Wiki, won't let you easily enter multiple paragraph comments. <br><br>Auxiliary verbs in general sound like a grammarian explaining away phlogiston. –  Wes Miller Mar 8 '12 at 13:39
You've drawn the wrong conclusion from my answer. If you use an auxiliary verb with the first sentence, you are using an auxiliary verb. If it needs to come out, then you are not using one, so the appropriate conjugation of need would apply. Also, if you're commenting on my answer, you should comment there, not on your own question, because the reference is not clear. –  Robusto Mar 8 '12 at 14:23

2 Answers 2

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Because you have “does” in the sentence. The “s” denoting third person singular is on the “does”. One way to think of it is that “verbs” is really an abbreviation for “does verb”.

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This is the valid answer, sadly, based on rules that are, as throughout English, capricious and arbitrary. –  Wes Miller Mar 8 '12 at 15:26

Does in this case is an auxiliary verb. You can see that the object of the sentence ("This") uses it to get to need.

You can demonstrate this by rearranging the word order.

This does need to come out.

Here it is obvious that "This" is the subject, "does" is the auxiliary verb, and "need" is the verb.

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But why was the word "needs" in the first sentence? Presumably the first sentence could be re-written "This will need to come out eventually.". Is the absence of "will" responsible for the need for the extra "s"? –  LordScree Mar 8 '12 at 13:21
@LordScree: In the first sentence, "This" is the third-person demonstrative pronoun subject and "needs" is the correct verb to use with it based on number. –  Robusto Mar 8 '12 at 14:25

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