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 + verbe-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 USED AS A NAME
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.