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A few years ago I moved to North-eastern Scotland. I've noticed that people from all backgrounds and levels of education frequently use the past participle instead of the gerund or infinitive forms, both in written work and in conversation. For example, the group secretary at my place of work has just sent out an e-mail saying:

I will be out of the office on Monday. If you have anything that needs booked before then, please let me know.

This just seems wrong to me: needs booking or needs to be booked would be correct. However, I hear it so regularly up here - and from people that are clearly well educated - that I'm beginning to think there must be more to it.

Does anyone know of any historical precedent for this kind of usage in Scotland, or elsewhere? Perhaps it's actually fine and I'm just showing my ignorance?

Thanks!

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In strict rules of english, it is incorrect. However, since Scotland uses english in british form and it was a different nation centuries ago, it is probably a regional dialect.

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I'm English, but I've been living in Scotland (Edinburgh) for 3 years and dating a Scot (with all the frequent trips to Scotland that that implies) for seven. Like you, I was surprised the first time I heard it, but it's definitely correct north of the border - even in formal writing - and I now use it myself fairly frequently: it's just so ubiquitous you forget that it sounds odd to a Sassenach ear...

The construction is a passive infinitive with an auxilliary verb ("need to be done"). The passive infinitive is replaced with the past participle ("to be done" is replaced with "done").

  • Have you got anything else you want cooked?
  • I've got a few more things that need done before I can leave.
  • How much of this do you expect finished today?

The last one is less common - it's mostly used with "need" or "want". Of the more standard forms, you might hear "needs doing" as an alternative, but you'd rarely hear "needs to be done".

It's actually sometimes used in "normal" English when the object falls between the auxilliary and the other verb.

He needs his ass kicked!

I believe English speakers almost universally would say "kicked" rather than "to be kicked" in the above sentence. However, I'm sure I'll be told if my sentence needs corrected ;)

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