when passive is used, it is mandatory to use be verb.

Thank you for letting me know.

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    How do you want to use the phrase 'what to be done'? We can't tell you how to 'fix it' if we don't know what you are trying to say. Commented May 10, 2020 at 16:05
  • Ah I see. Thank you for commenting on my post! I am studying the sentences whether they are correct or not. By the way, I wondered 'what to be done' can be used as 'what to do' is commonly used. Does it make sense?
    – Yemo
    Commented May 10, 2020 at 16:09
  • Your example is SYNTACTICALLY INVALID, because the "embedded question" doesn't contain a verb. You have to say I asked what was to be done. Or feasibly I asked what Is to be done, but that's unlikely except in a true reported speech context: "What is to be done?", I asked. Commented May 10, 2020 at 16:24
  • You're right that people do say What to do? I think you need to regard this as an idiom. There are a few other verbs which can substitute (What to wear? comes to mind), but most verbs won't work. I think it is best analysed as having an unspoken I wonder before it. That both makes the syntax normal, and fits the context in which it is usually used.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented May 10, 2020 at 18:28

1 Answer 1


Now you have supplied a proper sentence, I can tell you that, no, you can't use what to be done in the same way.

I asked what to do = what I should do (an active verb).

To be done is passive, so you need to add was.

I asked what was to be done = what action needed to be taken.

  • Julie - You edited your question to make it clearer what you were asking (which was good), but now you have edited it again, removing the question and expressing thanks. Please don't do that! You should leave the question so that readers of the forum know what the conversation was about. Any thanks for answers should be in comments. Commented May 11, 2020 at 8:50
  • Ohh, Sorry! I should have kept that in my mind,,, it is my mistake. I promise you not to do it again...
    – Yemo
    Commented May 12, 2020 at 8:41

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