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Need is a common English verb. It is a semi-modal verb, used to express modality. It can also be used as a noun; its adjective is needy, and its adverb is needily.

Need to[edit | edit source]

Generally modern English speakers use "need to" as a regular verb, with identical grammar to "have to", conjugating for third person -s, and using auxiliary do, e.g.

  • "I need to do something"
  • "A man needs to eat!"
  • "I don't need to do that!"
  • "Do you need to do something?"
  • "What do we need to do?"

We can also use this in the past tense:

  • "I needed to go home."
  • "You didn't need to do that."

Need as a full modal verb[edit | edit source]

It is possible to use need as a full modal verb. However, this usage is less common in spoken English, though it is used more in formal written English.

  • "I need do something."
  • "A man need eat!"
  • "I needn't do that!"
  • "Need you do something?"
  • "What need we do?"

In the past, this need have + past participle. "You needn't have done that!"

Instruction[edit | edit source]

While "need to" can be taught to elementary students, use of need as a full modal verb is best taught to upper-intermediate or advanced students. The use of the full modal form is useful in academic essays as it allows the author to save on word count. Students however may have learnt the full modal form from a grammar book or from other instruction.

It is possible for the two forms to interfere with each other, producing errors:

  • *"You needn't to do that!"
  • *"Do you need do something?"
  • *"A man need to eat." (third person -s error)
  • *"A man needs eat."