One of my friends told me that some verbs have passive meanings when they are followed by a gerund, and they have both active and passive meanings when they are followed by to-infinitive. I asked him about the name of those verbs, and requested him to give some examples. He told me that 'need, require and want' are such kind of verbs, but he couldn't give any examples.

Would anybody give some examples to make this topic clear? Are there other verbs except 'want, need and require', which follow the rules stated above?

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    Nice question. Here are some examples, but I don't have time to do a good answer: The care needs washing, Your hair wants cutting, Do the carpets require cleaning?. Commented Dec 30, 2015 at 13:59

2 Answers 2


As Araucaria exposed, after the verbs deserve, need, want and require, the —ing form has a passive sense.
Michael Swan's — Practical English Usage states that this is more common in BrE than AmE. The following examples are taken from his book:

—ing forms (4): after verbs

3   —ing form with passive meaning.

      » I don't think his article deserves reading = (...) deserves to be read.
      » Your hair needs cutting = (...) needs to be cut.
In informal British English, want can also be used like this.
      » The car wants servicing = (...) needs to be serviced.


The gerund used after these verbs indicates that the subject needs or requires or wants (in a somewhat idiomatic, metaphoric, passive way, since inanimate objects can't rightfully need or require, much less want, anything, as such) some sort of action performed on it.

This type of carpet requires frequent shampooing.

The car needs washing.

The lawn wants mowing.

Conversely, the to-infinitive indicates that someone is requesting or demanding that these actions be performed:

The landlord requires tentants to shampoo the carpet every month.

Your father needs you to wash the car.

I want you to mow the lawn this Saturday.

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