If I have two passives:

  • The car needs fixing.
  • The car needs to be fixed.

Which is the better choice in a test where you need to put, "Somebody needs to fix the car" into the passive?

Are they both valid and equally correct?


Your two examples both use the active voice for the main verb "need".

A direct transformation of "Somebody needs to fix the car" into the passive voice is "To fix the car is needed." But nobody actually talks like that ("Fixing the car is needed" is only slightly better). Infinitive clauses don't make good subjects of passive verbs.

Instead, you use the fact that you can use the active voice (due to the range of meaning of "need"), and both of the two example you gave are possible and idiomatic.

  • Now, wait a sec. you claim that these passives aren't really passives, right? Nov 2 '17 at 7:42
  • Depends a little on what you mean by "passive". The verb "Need" is odd in its usage, it has both transitive and intransitive use, and sometimes functions more like an auxillary. This is what I mean by "the range of meanings of need" It can mean either "require" or "be required". So a sentence in the active voice can function like one in the passive.
    – James K
    Nov 2 '17 at 11:14

Both usages are in the passive voice. The actor has been lost from the sentence.

As a native English speaker I would use, "The car needs to be fixed." To me the usage, "The car needs fixing.", sounds more informal.

However, I believe the real difference is perfect versus imperfect case.

Using the word 'fixed' implies that the action is to be completed at some future time. Whereas, 'fixing' implies that the action will be taking place at some future time.

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