to wash or to be washed?


Senior Member
Now the guests have left, and I have a pile of dishes (to wash / to be washed).

To me both looks right. Is there any difference in meaning between them? The infinitive in the attributive function is always a headache, when it comes to choosing between an active and passive form!
  • Garbuz

    Senior Member
    Thank you, b1947420.
    I's just crossed my mind that in the construction:

    I have + smth+ to do.

    we normally use an active infinitive. Like:
    I have work to do.
    I have my own life to consider, etc.

    Maybe in other constructions (e.g. There is a lot of things to be done), it's different. Anyway, it looks that the choice of the active vs. passive infinitive is somehow structurally dependent.


    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    I have a pile of dishes to wash. = (normally) I have to wash these dishes. (Note, completely different uses of 'have' + 'to': the first is 'have' = "have got" pronounced with [v], the second is 'have to' = "must" pronounced with [f].)

    I have a pile of dishes to be washed. = I have some dishes, and these dishes need to be washed. If I'm head chef and you're a kitchen helper, I can then tell you to wash them.

    This is not an absolute distinction. Both meanings can apply to both expressions, but if there are dishes to wash it's more likely to be my duty than it is if there are dishes to be washed, which just need somebody to wash them.
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