# a system needs to scale

#### taraa

##### Senior Member
Why is it active? Shouldn't it be "When a system is needed to scale"?

"When a system needs to scale, very different types of problems need to be solved."

Distributed Systems, Tanenbaum

• #### PaulQ

##### Banned
"When a system is needed to scale"
When I read that, I had to read it again - I saw "scale" as a noun and read it as "When we need a model of a system."

1. "He built a small model of Big Ben to scale(n.)." -> we imagine a scale (a ratio of measurements) in which each metre of the real Big Ben is one centimeter in the model.
2. "He built a small model of Big Ben to scale(v.)." = "He built a small model of Big Ben in order to climb it." - to scale = to climb.
Scale(v.) is a contraction of "scale up" or "scale down", (or, more precisely, to change its scale upwards or downwards) as in 2.

"When a system needs to scale, ..." = "When a system needs to change in size, ... (usually, but not always, upwards)."

The use of scale(v.), in this sense, is relatively recent. If it helps, I think of it more as jargon, as it is quite "clunky" to my ear.

#### taraa

##### Senior Member
When I read that, I had to read it again - I saw "scale" as a noun and read it as "When we need a model of a system."

1. "He built a small model of Big Ben to scale(n.)." -> we imagine a scale (a ratio of measurements) in which each metre of the real Big Ben is one centimeter in the model.
2. "He built a small model of Big Ben to scale(v.)." = "He built a small model of Big Ben in order to climb it." - to scale = to climb.
Scale(v.) is a contraction of "scale up" or "scale down", (or, more precisely, to change its scale upwards or downwards) as in 2.

"When a system needs to scale, ..." = "When a system needs to change in size, ... (usually, but not always, upwards)."

The use of scale(v.), in this sense, is relatively recent. If it helps, I think of it more as jargon, as it is quite "clunky" to my ear.
Thank you so much PaulQ
But why shouldn't it be passive?

#### PaulQ

##### Banned
But why shouldn't it be passive?
It is a question of style.
"When a system needs to scale,
This gives the nuance that the system itself becomes aware of a need for it to grow, and that the technicians, as servants of the system, thus need to address the problem. As such, it gives the idea to the reader that a system will grow and thus prepares them for this event and (I assume) it later gives a solution.
Why is it active? Shouldn't it be "When a system is needed to scale"?
When I read that, I had to read it again - I saw "scale" as a noun and read it as "When we need a model of a system."

#### taraa

##### Senior Member
It is a question of style.

This gives the nuance that the system itself becomes aware of a need for it to grow, and that the technicians, as servants of the system, thus need to address the problem. As such, it gives the idea to the reader that a system will grow and thus prepares them for this event and (I assume) it later gives a solution.

Thanks a lot!
Sorry in the sentence in post #1, is "scale" a noun or a verb, please?

#### PaulQ

##### Banned
It is an infinitive.

#### PaulQ

##### Banned
Sorry, my mistake.
Scale(v.) is a contraction of "scale up" or "scale down", (or, more precisely, to change its scale upwards or downwards) as in 2.

"When a system needs to scale, ..." = "When a system needs to change in size, ... (usually, but not always, upwards)."

The use of scale(v.), in this sense, is relatively recent. If it helps, I think of it more as jargon, as it is quite "clunky" to my ear.

#### PaulQ

##### Banned
to scale = preposition + noun = in a certain ratio
to scale (v.) (intr.) = to change in size
to scale (v.) (trans.) = to climb

#### taraa

##### Senior Member
to scale = preposition + noun = in a certain ratio
to scale (v.) (intr.) = to change in size
to scale (v.) (trans.) = to climb
Thank you so much

#### Steven David

##### Senior Member
Why is it active? Shouldn't it be "When a system is needed to scale"?

"When a system needs to scale, very different types of problems need to be solved."

Distributed Systems, Tanenbaum
Sentences like this, which are neither active nor passive, are referred to as "middle voice".

This is similar to how we can use other verbs in English. In such cases, the subject of the verb is also the object.

The system is going to scale, and someone or something is going to scale the system. People have to recognize that the system needs to scale, and then people scale the system. Obviously, the system cannot recognize that it needs to scale itself. However, this is how we can express the idea: "When a system needs to scale, very different types of problems need to be solved."

The magazine is selling very well.

Someone sells the magazine, but we can say it this way.

A few more copies are printing now.

Someone is using a printing machine to print the copies, but we can say it this way, as well.

Here are a couple more examples.

The water spilled. < Someone spilled the water by accident.

The door opened. < Maybe, the wind caused the door to open.

Here is some information about "middle voice".

middle voice - Wiktionary

middle voice (uncountable)
1. A voice that is neither active nor passive, because the subject of the verb cannot be categorized as either agent or patient, having elements of both.
Usage notes
• English has no morphological middle voice category, but does have lexical middle verbs and syntactic middle voice constructions.
lexical middle voice: The window broke.
• Example 3 may be considered lexical middle voice because it is a feature of the lexical meaning of the verb to break. Not all verbs can be used this way, e.g., The ball kicked cannot mean that the ball is the undergoer of the act of kicking.

Active, MIDDLE, passive voices

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#### Steven David

##### Senior Member
Thanks a lot!
Sorry in the sentence in post #1, is "scale" a noun or a verb, please?

In post number one, "scale" is the object of the preposition "to", and therefore it is a verbal noun.

a system needs to scale

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#### taraa

##### Senior Member
Thank you so much!

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