Look at this example below

The carpet needs___________ before we use it.

a) cleaning b) to be cleaned

Which one would be more appropriate in the given context and why?

My thought process was: a person always clear a carpet so it should have a passive sense --> to be cleaned. But the first one also looks fine. Additionally, please clarify if we are using cleaning as a gerund in the first option.


Both are passive and both are idiomatic. The version with the gerund-participle is what Huddleston & Pullum (2002) call a concealed passive construction and the version with the infinitive an ordinary passive construction:

With a small number of catenative verbs, notably need, require, deserve and want, a gerund-participial may be passive while lacking the usual marking of the passive — we refer to this as a concealed passive construction.

i The house needs to be painted. [ordinary passive]
ii. The house needs painting. [concealed passive]

The catenative complement in [i] is overtly marked as a passive by the auxiliary be and the past participle form painted ... while [that] in [ii] lacks such marking although [it is] interpreted in the same way. (p. 1199-1200)

Note also that the version with the gerund-participle can freely take a by-phrase complement as in "the carpet needs cleaning by you".

  • Agreed. Both are fine. Jul 10 '19 at 10:45

Both forms are fine. I would probably prefer 'to be cleaned' which is very common and idiomatic. To me, 'needs'+gerund sounds a bit more complicated, although still fine to use.

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