The country needs healed

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In the latest GOP presidential debate, Ohio Gov. John Kasich used a regionalism not often heard in national politics. From the Washington Post transcript:

And as president of the United States, it's all about communication, folks. It's all about getting people to listen to one another's problems. And when you do that, you will be amazed at how much progress you can make, and how much healing we can have. Because, folks, at the end of the day, the country needs healed.

Video from Fox Business (skip to about 2 minutes in):

Kasich was using the "need + V-en" construction, which I discussed in the 2011 post, "Annals of 'needs washed'." The Yale Grammatical Diversity Project says the construction is typical of western Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio, northern West Virginia, and central Indiana. The Pittsburgh region is typically seen as the main locus, and not surprisingly Kasich hails from McKees Rocks in Allegheny County, PA, across the Ohio River from Pittsburgh.

Reactions on Twitter were swift and overwhelmingly negative. Many took note of the construction's regional usage, with Kasich identified as a "yinzer" (after the stereotypical usage of yinz as a second-person plural pronoun in western Pennsylvania).


  1. Valkiro said,

    January 15, 2016 @ 2:56 am

    So that's where that's from.
    I use this construction, and I spent a year or so in the preschool age range (and again in 3rd grade) in Pittsburgh, and I must've picked this up while there. It's "ungrammaticality" never even occurred to me.
    I also never realized nobody else uses it. Goes to show what happens when we aren't paying attention.

  2. Chas Belov said,

    January 15, 2016 @ 4:04 am

    It's not the wrong form. It's regional. I wouldn't of (sic) even noticed it.

  3. Chas Belov said,

    January 15, 2016 @ 4:06 am

    I say "nuclear" but that's like getting on people's case or feeling superior to them for them saying "nucular." If you don't like saying "needs healed" then don't say it.

  4. Jen said,

    January 15, 2016 @ 4:28 am

    Are those particularly Scottish places?

    For me it's 'needs healing' that sounds bafflingly ungrammatical – I understand that it's normal for lots of people in (the south of?) England, but I couldn't *say* it, any more than I could say 'she gave it me' or other local English (as in England) variants.

  5. Uly said,

    January 15, 2016 @ 4:52 am

    In my admittedly anecdotal experience, people who have that construction are usually extremely surprised to find out how strange it sounds to people who don't! This isn't like the habitual be or standing ON line, they just have no idea it's regional.

    Are those particularly Scottish places?

    Scots-Irish, yes, and also German.

    For me it's 'needs healing' that sounds bafflingly ungrammatical – I understand that it's normal for lots of people in (the south of?) England, but I couldn't *say* it, any more than I could say 'she gave it me' or other local English (as in England) variants.

    "Needs healing" doesn't sound ungrammatical to me, but it does sound oddly old-fashioned or formal. I'd say "needs to be healed".

  6. Uly said,

    January 15, 2016 @ 4:53 am

    that's like getting on people's case or feeling superior to them for them saying "nucular."

    Oh, that pissed me off so much during Bush's administration. "Oh, he's so stupid, he says nucyuler!"

    The man got elected because he was "the guy you could have a beer with", unlike Gore. That is, he got election on the strength of his accent. How stupid could he be!?

  7. Joseph F Foster said,

    January 15, 2016 @ 8:21 am

    I'm a [nyukyular] also– it's a regular English pattern like particular, molecular, vernacular, spectacular, ….

    From West Arkansas, I also have George W Bush' and Lyndon Baines Johnson's retroflex /s/, [s with dot under it in phonetic representation]. Currently live in SW Ohio and needs {V-en} is pretty common around here but in Arkansas we had needs {V-ing}.

  8. Scott said,

    January 15, 2016 @ 9:15 am

    I'm from Michigan, and I would say "needs healing." I think this expression is very common with "some": "We need some healing." I'm aware of the existence of "needs healed" but I don't normally hear it. I don't have a problem with it though.

    @Uly: I'm surprised that "needs healing" sounds formal to you; in my mind it's more informal and colloquial than "needs to be healed."

  9. Aelfric said,

    January 15, 2016 @ 9:26 am

    Born and raised in western New York state here, and "needs healing" sounds homespun but just fine to me. I too, associate this with western Pennsylvania. Although it was frequently heard in my area, it was always deemed a usage from elsewhere, rather like "redding up" the room which was also common. What fascinates me is that I often here this in the idiolect of my wife, her friends and family, and she is a Calgary, Alberta native. That and her cot/caught merger. When she tries to differentiate those words, she sounds like Mike Myers doing "Coffee Talk" on Saturday Night Live.

  10. terry said,

    January 15, 2016 @ 9:28 am

    I've heard this regionalism all the way through Scranton and Coal Country.

    almost everyone native says it in and around Harrisburg.

  11. BlueLoom said,

    January 15, 2016 @ 9:36 am

    I went to college in northern Ohio (with a lot of Ohioans & Pennsylvanians) and don't remember ever having heard the Kasich construction. That said, I love regionalisms like this and the typical NYC "on line" instead of "in line." Isn't it neat that with just a couple of words, one can pretty much pinpoint where a person grew up?

    About nucular: As I recall, that's the way Jimmy Carter pronounced it, and he was an, um, "nucular" physicist.

  12. Faldone said,

    January 15, 2016 @ 10:19 am

    Jimmy more pronounced it "nukeeyer."

  13. Aaron said,

    January 15, 2016 @ 10:25 am

    I remember vividly the first time I heard this construction, because it was just a few years ago, spoken by a friend who hails from West Virginia. I was immediately curious about it and asked if it was a regional thing, and he had no idea it was unusual or that others didn't say it. Even now that I'm aware of it, I still hear it so rarely that I wonder if many people from these regions try to avoid saying or writing it because they've been told it's wrong.

  14. Dennis Paul Himes said,

    January 15, 2016 @ 10:29 am

    My own kids make fun of me because I pronounce an /r/ in "wash". (It rhymes with "marsh" for me.) That's a regionalism which isn't even from any region I've ever lived in; I picked it up from my Pennsylvania Dutch mother.

  15. Dr. Decay said,

    January 15, 2016 @ 11:19 am

    @Uly So when Marvin Gaye sang "I need some lovin'" in the song "Sexual Healing", it sounded old fashioned and formal to you? Google informed me the song was released in 1982, which is admittedly old. The song also has the line "I want sexual healing". What do you think of that?

  16. Peter said,

    January 15, 2016 @ 12:17 pm

    @Scott and others: to me (originally a Brit) X needs healing is (I think) a quite distinct construction from X needs some healing. In the latter, healing is a verbal noun, and we’re saying X needs some of it. The former is a construction in its own right meaning X needs to be healed. So the Vikings need fighting has two parsings for me, either with a verbal noun, meaning they are unhappy when they don’t fight, or as this other construction, saying that somebody ought to go and fight them.

    When I moved to Pittsburgh and met X needs healed, the usage I heard for that pretty much exactly much corresponded to the usage of X needs healing that I was familiar with from growing up in (mostly the North of) England. My favourite example heard in the wild came from a theoretical physicist friend: This data needs renormalised. (Or possibly these data need, I forget.)

  17. Lazar said,

    January 15, 2016 @ 12:24 pm

    Yep – Jimmy Carter is often cited as a "nucular" user, but I don't think that's true. If you listen to him here, for example, he seems to say it [ˈnuːkjə]. My guess is that in his lect, [ˈnuːkliə] was compressed to a bisyllabic [ˈnuːkljə], and then the [lj] was smoothed to [j], in the same way that "million" often becomes [ˈmɪjən].

  18. Scott said,

    January 15, 2016 @ 1:17 pm

    I'm now trying to figure out whether I parse "needs healing" and "needs some healing" as the same or distinct constructions. Now that I think about it, I agree with Peter's analysis.

    I still consider "needs healing" an informal construction. It sounds like there might be an American/British distinction here. As a more normal example, if I heard "his car needs fixing," that would sound more colloquial than "his car needs to be fixed." It almost sounds dialectal, but like all Michiganders, I consider my speech to be normal English–it's other people've got dialects.

  19. Mark P said,

    January 15, 2016 @ 1:35 pm

    My mother grew up in Akron, Ohio. I never heard her use that construction. Maybe Akron is not in the right region. My brother, who spent quite a few years in the Pittsburgh area, didn't pick it up, and I never heard anyone use it when I visited. But most of the people he worked with were not natives of the area.

  20. Druhyelew said,

    January 15, 2016 @ 1:53 pm

    Since when is western PA the midwest?

  21. Levantine said,

    January 15, 2016 @ 2:32 pm

    There's also the (British?) usage of "want" in this same sense: "They want shooting", meaning they deserved to be shot.

  22. Levantine said,

    January 15, 2016 @ 2:32 pm

    There's also the (British?) usage of "want" in this same sense: "They want shooting", meaning they need (deserve) to be shot.

  23. J. W. Brewer said,

    January 15, 2016 @ 3:23 pm

    Just from a glass-half-full perspective I'm glad the twitter commenters cited all correctly recognized it as a regionalism (even if a stigmatized one) rather than as just some random context-free error giving rise to context-free how-can-anyone-be-so-ignorant condemnation.

  24. Jerry Friedman said,

    January 15, 2016 @ 5:37 pm

    If people don't mind my repeating what I said a previous time Ben Zimmer post about this here, a colleague from the Texas Panhandle says "needs fixed", etc.

    BlueLoom: Not that it's relevant to Carter's pronunciation as far as I know, but he was a nuclear engineer, not a nuclear physicist.

    Mark P: Akron is indeed in a different region. The "need + V-en" region doesn't take up all of eastern Ohio. There's a map in the post I linked to above.

    Druhyelew: It's not the first time I've seen someone who thinks western Pennsylvania is in the Midwest.

  25. seriously said,

    January 15, 2016 @ 6:46 pm

    I grew up in northern W.Va. and the first time I saw a discussion on LL of the problem with saying "needs Xed" I honestly did not fathom what the problem was! I had to read well into the article before I realized that it sounds odd to most people to say that instead of "needs to be Xed." It's remarkable how ingrained something like this can be–I went to college and graduate school in New England, then lived and worked my entire career in the DC area, then New York City, then 30 years in New Jersey. Almost no-one who hears me can detect any accent, and, in fact, people often remark "You don't sound like you're from West Virginia." Yet, this usage sounds completely normal to me and, as I said, I didn't even realize it was nonstandard.

  26. empty said,

    January 15, 2016 @ 7:30 pm

    I knew somebody who referred to Ohio as on "the East Coast".

    To me (from MA, NJ, CT) "needs healing" and "needs to be healed" are unremarkable, and "needs healed" is an example of a Pennsylvania-ism that I've heard of before.

  27. Bill Rankin said,

    January 15, 2016 @ 8:02 pm

    What counts as Midwestern? Here's a map!

    Western PA is indeed sometimes included in the Midwest.

  28. J. W. Brewer said,

    January 15, 2016 @ 9:40 pm

    In addition to the map Bill Rankin posted, see (based on data from polling self-identified Midwesterners as to which states they think are also in the Midwest, compiled by a guy who grew up in NYC and thinks the Midwest starts as soon as you're out of metropolitan Philadelphia). Of course, assuming the boundary of a cultural region (or dialect region) has to coincide with a state line and the only question is which state line is silly. If you were to proceed westward from Manhattan to someplace stereotypically in the core/Platonic-form Midwest (maybe Muncie, Indiana?), interacting with locals along the way, it would no doubt be hard to identify a bright-line transition point into midwesternness but wherever you felt the approximate tipping-point to be would be highly unlikely to coincide with the Pennsylvania/Ohio border. (FWIW I don't think of my Pittsburgh-raised father as "Midwestern" but I also don't think of him as being from the "East Coast," and ditto for my Buffalo-raised mother, yet I lack a convenient standard word or phrase to describe that transitional zone that includes both Western Pa. and Western N.Y. )

  29. Jerry Friedman said,

    January 15, 2016 @ 11:02 pm

    Bill Rankin: Your map is very interesting, but I would like to state for the record that Newfoundland is not part of the Midwest.

    Of course, the problem is that people divide the country into "official" regions for one reason or another, and then they need names for the regions. That doesn't mean that region names such as "Midwest" correspond with what those same people consider "Midwest".

    Nevertheless, your map does show that relatively few people consider western Pennsylvania part of the Midwest–and I'll bet very few of those people live in western Pennsylvania.

    Anyway, Pittsburgh is way too hilly to be part of the Midwest. I have spoken (as Grandpa Friedman used to say).

    J. W. Brewer: Certainly there's no bright line, and if there were it wouldn't necessarily correspond with a state line. It would be ridiculous to say that people from Youngstown, Oh., are Midwesterners, and people from Sharon, Pa., aren't.

    I agree in not having a word for a region that contains places such as Buffalo and Pittsburgh. The word for Pittsburgh's region really should be Appalachia, but that's come to mean shacks in West Virginia and parts south.

  30. Lazar said,

    January 15, 2016 @ 11:13 pm

    We New Englanders are lucky to live in the only American region which seems to be really well defined. Of course a lot of us do challenge the credentials of western Connecticut, while at the same time some looser conceptions include upstate New York east of the Hudson.

  31. AntC said,

    January 16, 2016 @ 3:46 am

    I noticed the 'needs healed' usage in NZ when I moved here from UK (Br.E – my usage is 'needs healing').

    Seems to be more prevalent with those from Southern NZ – which would tie in with comments about a Scottish influence in Ben's "Annals …" piece.

    Does that also tie in with Pittsburgh environs?

  32. Guy said,

    January 16, 2016 @ 6:19 am


    I think yours is an accurate description for many speakers, but for me (San Francisco Bay Area) there is no construction of the form "needs Xing" where "Xing" cannot be modified in sense-preserving ways that make it clear that we are dealing with a noun phrase, not a non-finite clause. Although for many verbs X, the construction is only possible in a jocular register ("that bug needs squashing" and "that bug needs a good squashing" are both possible for me, but carry an air of levity). So for me "needs healing", while perfectly acceptable, must have "healing" as a noun. A clause like "the Vikings need fighting" in the concealed passive sense or "his car needs fixing" would be more naturally expressed for me as an explicit infinitival passive (to be fought/fixed) not as concealed passives or pseudo-concealed passives. ("Needs healing" is fine because I feel "healing" in the necessary sense as a fairly well-established deverbal noun, whereas the noun "fighting" doesn't lend itself to a passival interpretation and "fixing" is not established as a noun in the necessary sense at all. It usually means something like "dressing, attachment, accoutrement")

    To my ear, I perceive the "needs fixing" form as colloquial and at least "regional" in the sense that I subjectively and unscientifically don't feel that I hear it often in my region. The "needs fixed" variant, on the other hand, is much more alien to me and although I've been aware of it for a while I'm not sure that I've ever encountered it outside of linguistic discussion. I don't perceive it as informal, regional, or colloquial, just as surprising and unfamiliar.

  33. Eric P Smith said,

    January 16, 2016 @ 7:32 am

    Like all Scots, to me "needs healed" is normal, and "needs healing" is the Southern British English form.

    In my childhood we had annual family holidays with an English family who said "X needs his hair cutting", "X wants his hair cutting", and even "X likes his hair cutting", which sounded respectively odd, very odd and very very odd to our Scottish ears. We used to parody it by saying things like "How would you like running to Glasgow?"

  34. Rodger C said,

    January 16, 2016 @ 11:59 am

    I'd call someone from Pittsburgh a Northern Appalachian. Culturally, I'd say that northern WV and eastern OH are in Pennsylvania, not the other way around. But when I was growing up in the Ohio Valley of WV, the schools and media seemed determined to insist that we were Midwesterners–a notion I didn't completely shed till I moved to Indiana. Oh, and "needs Xed" sounds perfectly fine to me.

  35. Gregory Kusnick said,

    January 16, 2016 @ 4:02 pm

    To me, "needs healing" and "needs [to be] healed" say different things. The former is about the process, the latter about the outcome. When I broke my toe last summer, I needed to be back on my feet. I did not need to be hobbling around on crutches for two months.

  36. Guy said,

    January 16, 2016 @ 4:24 pm

    @Eric P Smith

    For me, there's a huge difference between X needs Y(ing/en) and Z needs X Y(ing/en). I would say that "he needs his car fixed" is fine – I've always felt that I parsed it the same as "I like your hair blue" – but "his car needs fixed" is odd. "His car needs fixing" is okay, but "folksy", but "he needs his car fixing" is another one of those things I know about but have never really seen on my own in the wild as far as I'm aware. If "he needs his car fixed" isn't standard in GenAm, then that's exciting personal news for me.

  37. Guy said,

    January 16, 2016 @ 4:49 pm

    Incidentally, my native Spanish-speaking husband (Mexico city) considers "necesito un corte de cabello" ~ "("need" 1st sing. pres. ind.) ("a" masc.) (cut) (of) (hair)" ~ "I need a haircut" the most natural way of saying this in Spainsh. Surprisingly to me, he judges "necesito este allá" ~ "I need this over there" to be fine but "necesito mi cabello cortado" ~ "I need my hair cut (past part.)" is unacceptable.

  38. Mimi said,

    January 16, 2016 @ 10:26 pm


    Ohio can be east coast. When I wanted to tell someone what BJ"s Wholesale Club was, since their western-most location at the time was in Ohio, and all the rest were in states on the Atlantic Coast, I just said BJ's was a wholesale club located in east coast states.

  39. Mimi said,

    January 16, 2016 @ 10:31 pm

    @Bill Rankin, the Buffalo area of NY state is definitely midwest, not mid-Atlantic. Your map does not even include NY though. The Buffalo area has much more in common with the midwest than the rest of NY, but with few of the language defects, like positive anymore or the one being discussed in this thread. The only defect I know of is people say "pop" instead of "soda".

  40. Geoff said,

    January 17, 2016 @ 2:52 am

    Grew up Sydney , Australia, 1960s: 'needs Xing' – totally normal, I would never have imagined before today that anyone would find it unusual.

    'needs Xed' – never heard of it.

    Note that in Jane Austen's day, IIRC, you would say 'my bike is fixing' where today you would say 'my bike is being fixed.' I always assumed that 'my bike needs fixing' was a parallel construction from that time which for some reason survived where 'my bike is fixing' did not.

    The other day I entered a coffee shop at 5pm and said unselfconsciously, 'Is coffee still serving?' But as soon as I said it, I was aware that it sounded a bit archaic, though not incorrect.

  41. John Swindle said,

    January 17, 2016 @ 5:05 am

    I agree with Jerry Friedman that the interesting map Bill Rankin found gives administrative rather than geographic views of the Midwest. Anyplace in the solar system can be part of some organization's Midwest region as long as it has an administrative or historic tie to the organization's Midwest office.

    We also run into the peculiar logic of exonyms. There are believed to be places beyond the Hudson River that are not yet on the West Coast of the continent. Those liminal spaces are called the "Midwest," and those who are imagined to live or come from there are called "Midwesterners." Usage of people in the areas concerned may be different. People living between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains may be happy enough to call themselves Midwesterners but unsure about whether it's right to call Easterners in Illinois and Ohio Midwesterners too.

  42. Lazar said,

    January 17, 2016 @ 5:29 am

    I've seen some maps which posit a Midwest confined to the Census Bureau's West North Central division, with others confining it to the East North Central division. I've also seen some maps refer to these groupings as the "Plains States" and "Great Lakes States", despite the inaptitude of a Plains region region which includes Minnesota but not Oklahoma.

  43. Hans Adler said,

    January 17, 2016 @ 1:54 pm

    I first noticed this construction years ago when I was very active on Wikipedia. In discussions among editors it was used so much that I was close to starting to use it myself. I am glad it has come up here because now I know it's a regionalism. And I had no idea it's used in Scotland as well as in the US.

  44. David Fried said,

    January 17, 2016 @ 6:14 pm

    By way of localizing the usage–I first heard "the living room needs vacuumed" from a native of Johnstown, PA over 40 years ago. I'm a native of NYC, and I thought it was beyond strange, but I've heard it many times since from people native to Western PA. And my natural idiom is "the living room needs vacuuming"–"needs to be vacuumed" seems unduly formal.

  45. Guy said,

    January 18, 2016 @ 10:15 pm

    After thinking about this a bit more, I realize that the noun phrase analysis is not only the best for me, but apparently the only one possible. "The country needs healing fully" is completely unacceptable to me (as is "the country needs healed fully"), except with the awkward parse that is essentially equivalent to "the country fully needs healing". It has to be something like "the country needs to heal fully" or "the country needs to be healed fully".

  46. Carol Saller said,

    January 18, 2016 @ 11:16 pm

    I grew up in Peoria, Illinois, and it was recently suggested to me that "X wants Y'ed" is ungrammatical. It got by the copyeditor of my book – in a subhead "When the Piper Wants Paid" – but two proofreaders queried it.

  47. Guy said,

    January 19, 2016 @ 3:33 am

    @Carol Saller

    I wouldn't say it's ungrammatical in the sense of ungrammatical in any dialect, but it is regional and, to reuse a descriptor I used above, likely to be perceived as "folksy". I don't work as a copyeditor, but if I did I would probably leave it, just I would leave "ain't nothing like (whatever)" on the assumption that the author was intentionally aiming for that register. That instinct is especially strong here since "time to pay the piper" is an old traditional idiom and I might assume that your form was some traditional variant of it (though a quick check didn't get me any ghits).

  48. GH said,

    January 19, 2016 @ 9:02 am

    Some part of the region between the (core) Midwest and East Coast is the "Rust Belt", no?

  49. Killer said,

    January 19, 2016 @ 4:59 pm

    Reminds me of the lyric by the punk-rock band The Dead Milkmen, who were famous for their strong Philadelphia accents:

    We said "If you don't got Mojo Nixon
    Then your store could use some fixin'"

  50. Killer said,

    January 19, 2016 @ 5:00 pm

    Reminds me of the lyric by the punk-rock band The Dead Milkmen. They were famous, among other things, for singing in strong Philadelphia accents.

    We said "If you don't got Mojo Nixon
    Then your store could use some fixin'"

  51. Graeme said,

    January 20, 2016 @ 4:03 am

    At the risk of raining on US exceptionslism, I'd love to hear a candidate say 'this country needs heeled'.

  52. Colin said,

    January 20, 2016 @ 8:19 am

    I'd say:
    1.'he needs looking after' (he needs to be looked after)
    2.'his dog needs looking after' (his dog needs to be looked after)
    3.'he needs his dog looked after' (he needs someone to look after his dog)
    4.'he needs his dog looking after him' (he needs his dog to be looking after him).

    Not sure where this is the norm (my idiolect is English and more southern than northern, but other than that I can't pin it down too well). One possible rationalisation is that 'he needs looking after' is short for a phrase of type 4, 'he needs someone looking after him', but if you say 'he needs his dog looking after', it's not clear whether the dog is being looked after or doing the looking after.

    In terms of register, I'd say all these expressions are colloquial but not slangy (i.e. I'd use them in most spoken contexts, but never in formal writing).

  53. Craig said,

    January 20, 2016 @ 4:43 pm

    The first time I came across this usage was in the speech of a Western Missourian I met in graduate school, so it surprises me a little that its normal extent is limited to northern Appalachia.

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