Which one of these is correct?

•Truth needs to be told.
•Truth needs to be said.
•Truth needs to be spoken.

These are my guess:
'spoken' is a past participle and there's no had/have in the sentence so, I don't think 'spoken' can be used. Or if it can be used, then by which rule? What would be its tense?

1 Answer 1


You can think of the basic structure of all three as the same:

  • need + infinitive

As in:

  • I need to go
  • He needs to say [something]
  • We need to speak

Those examples all use the active infinitive. Yours use passive infinitives. That's the only difference.

  • I want to annoy [infinitive]
  • I want to be annoyed [passive infinitive]

I hope you can see that grammatically, your three options are all fine. However, in terms of common phrases, tell the truth is the clear winner---it's by far the most common phrase. Say the truth is not used in English, and speak the truth is used, but not as frequently.

So this question has nothing to do with grammar, just common phrasing. And the truth needs to be told is the natural-sounding, common phrasing.

Note: Not every grammarian likes the term passive infinitive, or even infinitive, when talking about English. I have used it here for simplicity.

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