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ELU!

My girlfriend has been using some strangely-formed English in the past few years. It's not just her because I've heard it elsewhere too. I've got a video of a screenwriter where he says, "You're not the only person or scriptwriter that needs read. I've heard this structure in TikTok videos too. I just don't know if this is a sign of evolving English or if my own education simply never taught me this as an alternative form of accepted English.

The problem

She'll use the simple present tense of a verb with an adjective right after it. For example, if she wants to express that the baby wants to be fed, she'll say that he "wants fed". Or, if she wants to say that a package needs delivery, she'll say that it "needs delivered". I would think that you're supposed to say "needs to be delivered" or "needs delivery" but never the way she says it. The screenwriter video above does it too ("needs read").

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  • That screenwriter thing could just be an unedited mistake. However, the baby wants feeding and the package delivering. And I personally don't think there is any evolution in the sense you're referring to...TikTok is filled with people who are not English speakers.
    – Lambie
    Commented Feb 12, 2023 at 19:17
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    We have a couple of dozen questions about this construction. It's typically called the "needs washed" construction although it is broader than that, and can be found in various pockets of America, Canada, and Scotland. It is typical of the dialects of western Pennsylvania (think Pittsburgh) but also occurs elsewhere in the American midlands. If you didn't grow up with it, it sounds "wrong" to you, but if you did grow up with it, it isn't even something you'd ever notice because it doesn't sound "wrong". However, "standard" English does not have this.
    – tchrist
    Commented Feb 12, 2023 at 19:19
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    It is commonplace in Scotland and in some parts of the country you would only rarely hear “needs to be washed” for “needs washed”, and that would be from an English visitor or resident.
    – Anton
    Commented Feb 12, 2023 at 23:14

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