Date: Fri, 7 Apr 1995 02:00:00 LCL
From: "M. Lynne Murphy" 104LYN[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]MUSE.ARTS.WITS.AC.ZA
Subject: Re: needs + present participle
Now I'm doubting my own recollections. Several have written that "X needs
a washing" is grammatical in their dialects. Is "X needs washing" grammatical
in the dialects of anybody? I'm not alone out here, am I?
it's grammatical to me.
my car needs washing.
my hair needs trimming.
my arbor needs pruning.
my lectures need preparing.
my chair needs mending.
but, i prefer:
my paper needs to be written. vs. ?my paper needs writing.
my gut reaction is that this is b/c the papers don't exist yet. "my
paper needs revising" is fine. but this explanation might be
thwarted by the lecture example above. but then, maybe it's related
to "*my used books need selling" which seems weird to me because it
does not benefit my books to be sold. or, it doesn't change my books
to be sold (it only changes my storage space and my pocket).
*my mother needs writing (to).
(but: my mother needs to be written (to) once a week.)
*my friend needs calling.
(but: my friend needs to be called.)
*my students need helping.
(but: my students need help/to be helped)
perhaps it's the case that in the present participle cases, it
doesn't have to be the possessor of the object that is the
understood agent of the participle--the agent seems to be
unspecified in a way that it isn't w/ a passive paraphrase of the
same. i.e., in the case of "my car needs washing" we needn't assume
that i have to wash it (i could hire a kid to do it), but w/ my
mother, it doesn't satisfy her if the publisher's clearinghouse
writes to her--she isn't "written to" in this context unless i (or
someone else made relevant by the context) do it. again, though,
i think that the lecture example works against this hypothesis.
incidentally, all of the above are true, so:
my nerves need calming.