Need needn’t grammar rules

Need and needn’t grammar rules




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Need is a regular verb that can be used as a lexical verb or as a modal. It expresses the necessity for something.

Need as a MAIN verb

You can use need as the main verb in a sentence with the following construction: need to + verb (to express a necessity, the need to do something) or need + noun (gerund) (to say that you need something) :

  • I need to have a shower. 
  • She needs to talk to him. 

For the negative and interrogative form, we use do/does and don’t/doesn’t :

  • Do I need to show my passport? 
  • Does she need my car? 
  • You don’t need to go there. 
  • He doesn’t need my help. 

⚠️ Don’t forget the final -s after he needs, she needs, it needs.

For the simple past, we add -ed to need: we get “needed“. For the interrogative and negative form, we use did and didn’t:

  • He needed some eggs to make a cake. 
  • He didn’t need to take his umbrellas. 
  • Did he need my computer? 

You can use the formula need + verb-ing, similar to need to be + past participle.

  • The windows need (or don’t need) cleaning. (= the windows need to be cleaned).

Need as a modal auxiliary

Need can also be used as a modal aid to the present, but only to the negative form and to the first person of the interrogative form (I or we).

⚠️ Be careful, however, these phrases are not often used :

In questions to ask about need, necessity :

  • Need I take an umbrella ? 
  • Need we finish the work today? 

The negative form need not (or needn’t) + verbal basis (without to) expresses the absence of obligation or necessity:

  • We need not hurry. 
  • It’s going to rain, you need’t take an umbrella. 

⚠️ As these formulas are rarely used, we use have to or need to instead :

  • Do I have to take an umbrella? = Do I need to take an umbrella?
  • Do we have to finish the work today? = Do we need to finish the work today?
  • You don’t have to take an umbrella = You don’t need to take an umbrella
  • We don’t have to hurry = We don’t need to hurry

To talk about actions that have been done but were not necessary: we use need not (or needn’t) + present perfect simple :

  • They needn’t have waited for us. 


Need can also be a name, it means a necessity :

  • Water is a need. 


⚠️ Do not confuse needn’t, which expresses the absence of obligation, with mustn’t, which expresses prohibition :

  • You need’nt come  (the negation concerns need)
  • You mustn’t come  (the negation concerns come)

⚠️ The structure need + verbal basis + ing is often used to say that something needs to be repaired or improved :

  • Your bike needs repairing. 
  • His english is bad. He needs practicing. 



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