The OALD shows that need can be used as "need to do something" and as "need doing something." The examples shown by the dictionary are, among others, the following ones:

He needs to win this game to stay in the match.
This shirt needs to be washed.
This shirt needs washing.

Could I rewrite the first sentence as follows?

He needs winning this game to stay in the match.

Does the sentence have the same meaning as the first one, or do those sentences have a (slightly) different meaning?

  • possible duplicate of "need + verb-ing" vs "need + [to be] + verb-ed" (OP's "rewrite" sentence is totally unacceptable, btw). – FumbleFingers Apr 8 '13 at 15:35
  • I voted to close this question, but the other question doesn't explain why "He needs winning this game to stay in the match." is not an acceptable rephrasing. – kiamlaluno Apr 8 '13 at 15:41

English grammar books say that

He needs winning this game to stay in the ...

is not appropriate because there winning doesn't express a passive infinitive as in

The sofa needs cleaning again.

Strictly speaking, your sentence doesn't make sense if you replace winning with "to be won", while "The sofa needs to be cleaned again" does.


You need to clean your shoes. (You must do this) Your shoes need to be cleaned. (More focus on the shoes, not the agent) Your shoes need cleaning. (Implies that YOU should clean them. Often mothers and spouses use this structure and raise their eyebrows or tut impatiently) Other instances in which we can see this: Your bedroom needs tidying. The car needs cleaning. Notice that the second person (you) is omnipresent here, unlike other passive forms.

Look out for "wants doing" too. :)


in active sentences we use need to do something while in passive we use need doing. I need to cleen my shoes. my shoes need cleaning.

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    Please provide explanations with your answers. This seems to repeat what the dictionary says. – Em. Apr 21 '19 at 21:35

In the OALD "need doing something" example, the "doing something" is "washing". As in "This shirt needs washing." If the subject is singular, then use "needs".

If the subject is plural use "need". As in "The geese need feeding."

You can follow need/needs with a gerund (a verb ending in -ing), but you would not inject a word between need/needs and the gerund.

  • Does "He needs winning this game to stay in the match." have the same meaning "He needs to win this game to stay in the match." has? – kiamlaluno Apr 8 '13 at 15:07
  • @kiamlaluno "He needs winning this game to stay in the match" is not proper grammar. Can't think of how to explain why at the moment, so I'll leave that to someone else to answer, but it isn't correct. – WendiKidd Apr 8 '13 at 15:28
  • @kiamlaluno On the other hand, "He is needing to win this game to stay in the match" is perfectly correct. – WendiKidd Apr 8 '13 at 15:29
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    @WendiKidd I was pointing that this answer is not saying what I am asking. I know that needs is for the third person singular, and that is not what I am asking. Your comment says what I am asking. – kiamlaluno Apr 8 '13 at 15:43
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    @WendiKidd♦: I must say "He is needing to win this game..." doesn't work for me as a Brit. It sounds like "Indian English". – FumbleFingers Apr 8 '13 at 15:51

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