How To Use Need In English

“Need” is an interesting verb in English, as it can be used both as a main verb and a modal verb.

For example “I need to get some bread” (main verb) and “We needn’t go now” (modal auxiliary).

Here are some of the ways you can use “need”, with explanations and examples.

Need As A Main Verb

You can use “need” as a main verb. It’s followed by the infinitive or a noun.

“I need to go into town this afternoon.”
“He needs new shoes.”

Use “do” / “does” to make questions, and “don’t” / “doesn’t” to make negatives:
“Do you need any money?”
“She doesn’t need a new coat.”

Remember: “don’t need to” means “there is no need to do something”. For example, “You don’t need to pay now” = “There’s no need to pay now – you can pay later”.

Needn’t As A Modal Auxiliary

You can also use “needn’t” (to mean “don’t need to”) as an auxiliary verb – especially in the negative form. When you do this, there’s no infinitive afterwards, and no “s” on the third person.

“You needn’t drive me to the station. I can take the bus” (= You don’t need to drive me to the station.)
“He needn’t pay now – he can pay later.” (= He doesn’t need to pay now.)

Used in this way, “needn’t” is a little more formal that “don’t / doesn’t need to”.

Other Ways To Use “Need”

You can also use “need” in other ways:

There’s no need to…
This means the same as “You don’t need to … (do something)”

“There’s no need to drive me to the station.”
“There’s no need to speak like that!” (= You should speak to me in a nicer way.)

Need I..?
You can also use “need” as a modal verb to make a rhetorical question. (A rhetorical question isn’t really a question, as we already know the answer.)
Because it’s used as an auxiliary modal, there’s no “do” or “does”. Here are a couple of examples:

“Need I say more?” (= Do I need to explain myself any more? I obviously don’t!)
“Need I go on?” (= Do I need to continue? I don’t think so as I’ve already given you a good explanation.)

Need + gerund
We can also use this construction to say that something should be done – usually by someone else:

“My car needs washing.”
“Your hair needs cutting.”

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