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I'm from Western Pennsylvania. Until I moved away, I never realized that when I omitted the to be from phrases like needs to be cleaned, my usage was different than what most English speakers are accustomed to. Is it wrong?

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I don't really think this is a duplicate of that question, but it does sound like the OP is eminently qualified to answer that question. –  Marthaª Jan 19 '11 at 23:09
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Please consider looking over at the question that Robusto linked to and giving an answer! I would be extremely interested! –  Kosmonaut Jan 20 '11 at 0:13
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3 Answers

I have never been introduced to the behavior in this question Central Pennsylvanian English speakers: what are the limitations on the "needs washed" construction? so I'm surprised ... Also duly informed. ;)

For the "rest of us" it's my experience that it's almost always appropriate to include the "to be" in a phrase.

I'm trying to track down a way to know that it should be done, but generally I've found that if you say "needs" or "wants" you either say to be _________ed or _________ing depending on the case of the verb that you want to use.

Some cases:

My dog needs to be walked.
My dog needed bathing.

A similar use case:

We need to do laundry.
The laundry needs to be done.

Using want:

I wanted to go to the park.
I wanted to take a shower.
I wanted to bathe my dog.

I'm just not sure what the original context would've been to offer corrections. Maybe with some more concrete examples from the region?

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I'm from central Ohio and use the "needs __ed" construction. I often use it at work where I say things like, "this bug needs fixed because ..." The only person who's ever commented is a colleague from Philadelphia (eastern Pennsylvania). I dislike all "to be" constructions because they're passive voice, so I rewrite using, "we need to fix this bug because..." rather than use "this bug needs to be fixed..."

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I definitely like the change between passive and active voice, so that's a strong business case. :D +1 –  jcolebrand Dec 3 '12 at 15:19
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Someone may have already said this, I'm sorry I didn't bother to read the other responses. In your sentence, "needs" is the subject. So, when you say "Needs cleaned" you are literally saying that what has been cleaned, are your needs. Now, having said that, I understand that this phrase would accompany what you intend your subject to be: "The car needs cleaned". In this case, the best, albeit irrational, deduction one could make is that your sentence lacks a comma after needs, denoting that the car needs have been cleaned; namely, your subject becomes "car needs". Yes, it is wrong. Either "needs cleaning" or "needs to be cleaned".

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