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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?

5 Answers 5

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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. Commented Oct 12, 2013 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. Commented Jan 1, 2014 at 8:07
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I think the first sentence is right because it is showing any task which must be completed, although the second sentence is showing the same thing but in passive voice.

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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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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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  • 3
    Why do you think "is needed" is incorrect?
    – Marthaª
    Commented Mar 31, 2011 at 19:24
  • Cambridge dictionary gives us needed as an adjective. The word has the form of a past participle but that does not restrict its meaning as you suggest. Consider similar constructs such as “the desired outcome”.
    – Anton
    Commented Dec 16, 2021 at 14:21

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