Date: Fri, 7 Apr 1995 07:59:00 EDT

From: "Dennis.Preston" 22709MGR[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]MSU.EDU

Subject: needs + present participle

In my expereiece, the farther you go south of the usual north versus south

midlands boundary, the less likly you are to hear need + past.part (e.g.,

needs washed). In my more recent Michigan experience, the division

between N. Midland and North concerning this feature seems more abrupt.

As a Louisville area speaker, I have all the others:

My clothes need to be washed.

My clothes need a (good) washing. (I don't like this as much without the

adjective; odd huh?)

My clothes need washing.

And I also confess to the variant:

My clothes need a-washing (which, blush, I first thought people were referring

to with the article citation. Just a little friendly a-prefixing y'all).

The first time I heard the need+past part. construction, I thought it was

distinctly non-native.

It is interesting (at least to me) to note, by the way, that native speakers

of need+past part. grow up in complete ignorance of its limited distribution

(as, say, Appalachian speakers do not of a-prefixing). Since there are no

negative caricatures of the area which supports it (generally), the local

speakers believe they are speakers of the mythical General American English.

I had a helluva time once convincing a Findlay, Ohio resident that his use of

this construction was in the least unusual (but, then, he was a Slavic

linguist). Since he was something of a prescriptivist, it was all the more

horrible for him.

Dennis Preston


changing to