1. The treasure inside Helen needed to be opened.
  2. Somebody needed to open the treasure inside Helen.
  3. The treasure inside Helen needed somebody to open.

Do they mean the same?

  • 1
    The phrasing of "treasure inside Helen" sounds really unfortunate and disturbing. Maybe a bit of extra context to clear up what kind of treasure (literal or presumably metaphorical) is meant would help. – Nathan Tuggy Dec 10 '15 at 1:54
  • 2
    #3 needs an "it" at the end to convey the same meaning as #1 and #2. – lurker Dec 10 '15 at 2:01
  • Do #1 and #2 mean the same? I'm still confused with them. Please explain it to me. Thanks again. – user27478 Dec 10 '15 at 2:42
  • @NathanTuggy: Downright macabre. – Ricky Dec 10 '15 at 2:55
  • #1 and #2 are different. #2 says a person has to open the treasure. #1 doesn't say a person has to do it. For #1, perhaps a robot, a natural event, or an explosion could do open the treasure. – Readin Dec 10 '15 at 6:46

NB: change of wording, but not syntax, to make more readable without loss of initial intent of OP.

1) The door inside the building needed to be opened.
2) Somebody needed to open the door inside the building.
3) The door inside the building, needed somebody to open it.

All three are understandable. #3 needs an it as the object to be grammatically correct.

#1 means that the door was closed and there was a reason for it to be open

The door inside the building needed to be opened, so we could have ventilation.

#2 means that the state of the door being open was needed by somebody

Somebody needed to open the door inside the building because it was too stuffy for them.

#3 It means that somebody was necessary to open the door, it could not open by itself.

The door inside the building needed somebody to open it, because it was jammed closed.

The original phrase:

The treasure inside Helen needed to be opened.

and its variations, are unfortunate and have several problems:

Taken literally, the phrase could mean that there is a treasure physically inside Helen which needs to be opened: 1) rarely, if ever, does this occur in real life (aside from possibly microdots embedded in spies, and smugglers swallowing gems/drugs); and if true, 2) would probably result in great harm to Helen being opened.

It could also mean that there is a metaphorical treasure, i.e. love or knowledge, but these are usually not opened. They are usually released or recalled (respectively), but one's heart is opened is a phrased used in literature.

Treasure, itself, is usually not opened. Treasure is discovered, uncovered, found, etc., a treasure chest is opened. So, in this case, the awkward phrasing leaves the reader with the feeling that treasure is a euphemism for something else.

There are other problems with the original which are beyond the ell scope, so we don't need to go into them...

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