Need, needed or needs

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GinevraD

Senior Member
Spanish - Latin America
She showed me a large basket of clothes which need to be darned.

A large basket of clothes is in singular and that will required [needs] but it is
not the basket that needs mending but the clothes [need]-
Should the present or past tense be used in this case?
Thanks
 
  • AmaryllisBunny

    Senior Member
    I would use 'needs' which is the singular form of the verb 'need' (the plural being 'need'). The reason is that 'basket' or 'large basket' serves as a 'single collective [...]'–e.g., a tank of fish needs to be fed (it is not literally the tank...).

    However, there is no clear cut 'rule' on this because if you emphasize the parts rather than the whole, you would indeed use 'need.' In BrE, for example, 'the team play well' and in AmE 'the team plays well.'
     

    neal41

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    For me 'needs' is wrong. If you use present tense, the verb must be 'need'. 'Clothes' is plural and it is the clothes which need to be mended, not the basket. If your sentence is a routine description of some past situation, then you should use past tense. If the clothes still need to be mended in present time, then you can use present tense. Past tense is the safer option if you are in doubt.
     
    Last edited:

    GinevraD

    Senior Member
    Spanish - Latin America
    For me 'needs' is wrong. If you use present tense, the verb must be 'need'. 'Clothes' is plural and it the clothes which need to be mended, not the basket. If your sentence is a routine description of some past situation, then you should use past tense. If the clothes still need to be mended in present time, then you can use present tense. Past tense is the safer option if you are in doubt.
    At the time the sentence was written, the clothes still needed to be mended. [just to clarify]
     

    neal41

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    At the time the sentence was written, the clothes still needed to be mended. [just to clarify]
    If you use past tense, you are not saying whether the clothes have been mended or still need to be mended. If you use past tense, no one will have any objection to your sentence. If you use present tense, some people might object and say that it would be better with past tense. If it is important to you to convey to the listener that the clothes have not yet been mended, you should say that explicitly.
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    You need not consider this any kind of exception or special case of agreement rules. It is simplest to say the relative clause is attached to the plural noun:

    She showed me a large basket of [clothes which need to be darned].
    not:
    She showed me [a large basket of clothes] [which need(s) to be darned].
     

    neal41

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    You need not consider this any kind of exception or special case of agreement rules. It is simplest to say the relative clause is attached to the plural noun:

    She showed me a large basket of [clothes which need to be darned].
    not:
    She showed me [a large basket of clothes] [which need(s) to be darned].
    You have to pay attention to the meaning. The relative clause does not automatically modify the plural noun.

    We saw several containers of butter that were broken. (the containers are broken not the butter)

    We saw several containers of butter that was rancid. (the butter is rancid not the containers)
     
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