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After writing this sentence, I found myself thinking that its meaning may be a little confusing to other people:

It’s needed to make clear some issues regarding absences.

I used the phrase to make clear &c to indicate what is needed. But every time I read this sentence, it seems like the phrase is being used to indicate purpose: the reason why it's needed.

Is it easy for native speakers of English to understand this sentence?

Additionally, how can one write sentences in a way that avoids kind of situation?

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The only thing I would change is to put clear after issues. –  American Luke Aug 27 '12 at 19:20
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Or use 'clarify' instead. –  Barrie England Aug 27 '12 at 19:21
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If you make one of the suggested changes, the sentence is grammatical. And the meaning would be "This is needed to...". But, I wonder if you meant to say: "What is needed is to clarify certain issues regarding absences". –  Neil Coffey Aug 27 '12 at 19:39
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Also, someone please point out already that to is not a preposition there, much less a proposition. Thanks! –  RegDwigнt Aug 27 '12 at 20:09
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Better would be to lead with the subject: "Certain issues regarding absences must be addressed." –  Robusto Aug 27 '12 at 20:19

3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

As Neil and you have shown in the comments, you're not using the right construction here. You are trying to use it as a dummy subject, to be picked up by to make clear. But that is only possible in English with words that cannot take an infinitive themselves:

It's better to make these issues clear.

Here, the dummy subject it is picked up by the subject complement, which is the infinitive plus dependencies: to make these issues clear. It is possible because better doesn't take an infinitive itself, so that there is no cause for ambiguity. It means "making these issues clear is better".

It's needed to make these issues clear.

Because needed can take the infinitive, the same construction is not possible here. Readers will take needed as governing to make..., as you said. The sentence then means "this is needed in order to make these issues clear". That is why you need to cut needed loose from the infinitive to get the desired reading while keeping the infinitive, as Neil suggested above:

What is needed is to make these issues clear.

This means "making these issues clear is needed".

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Cerberus, but I'm using 'needed' as an adjective here, so it can't an infinite. –  utxeee Aug 27 '12 at 20:57
    
@utxeee: Can you clarify this comment? –  Cerberus Aug 27 '12 at 21:08
    
In my quoted sentence I was using the word 'needed' as a adjective, so, it could not take an infinitive because it was not even acting as verb. –  utxeee Aug 27 '12 at 21:39
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Not so. Many adjectives, including participial adjectives, take a to-infinitive: We will be delighted to attend. He was happy to see his sister. He is keen to come. ( grammar-quizzes.com/infinitive3c.html ) –  Edwin Ashworth Aug 27 '12 at 22:32

I think the problem is with the word needed. Why not try

It is necessary to make some issues regarding absences clear.

or

It is necessary to make some issues clear regarding absences.

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Yes. It is needful... also works and is obviously closer to the original, but It is necessary... is the preferred construction. –  Edwin Ashworth Aug 27 '12 at 22:19

I'd reword the sentence and use the verb clarify (or rather its noun, clarification), eg.:

Some issues regarding absences need clarification.

This is easier to understand and avoids the need for the dummy pronoun it.

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