Grammar Challenge © BBC Learning English
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© British Broadcasting Catherine's Grammar Explanation: Corporation 2007
Need + verb-ing
Hello Asae! You were right to say that Helen's shoes need polishing, but in fact there
are 3 things she needs to do to prepare for the wedding. First, her hair needs
washing, second, the car needs cleaning, and finally, her shoes need polishing.
We use 'need' with an -ing verb to talk about fixing or improving things. There are
three parts to this structure. First, you name the thing – my hair, or the car, or my
shoes. Then you say 'need' - or 'needs' if the subject is 'he' 'she' or 'it' - and finally,
you use a verb with –ing. Listen to Helen:
Helen: My hair needs washing, the car needs cleaning, and my shoes need
Now when you use this structure, you don’t have to say who is going to do the
fixing, or repairing, or cleaning. You don’t say 'my hair needs cutting by the
hairdresser' – it's not necessary. Just say 'my hair needs cutting' - that's enough.
Now, questions and negatives are very straightforward. Here's Helen using 'do' to
make a present simple question:
Helen: Does my hair need cutting?
And for the past:
Helen: Did my hair need cutting?
And for the future:
Helen: Will my hair need cutting?
And here are some negatives, for the present, past and future: Corporation 2007
Helen: My hair doesn’t need cutting
My hair didn’t need cutting
My hair won’t need cutting