I've just read this sentence:

...As long as they have their own independent lives and help out only when needed, mothers-in-law can play a very useful role in any family...

My question is about "when needed". Is it correct? It shouldn't be "when is needed"?


The adjective is necessary which in the context you provided could fit as when deemed necessary. So, needed is the past participle of the verb need forming a passive clause which in its expanded version should be "when they are needed", "they" referring to "mothers-in-law" which occurs in the main clause, i.e. "mothers-in-law...in any family".

  • Why can't needed be considered an adjective here? needed ... adjective: necessary, wanted, required, lacked, lacking, called for, desired Collins Thesaurus of the English Language. – Edwin Ashworth May 4 '15 at 22:17
  • It can be. Either way, "when needed" or "when they are needed" forms an adverbial phrase. It seems it doesn't really matter whether you parse it as adjective or passive. – Brian Hitchcock May 5 '15 at 7:44

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