Monday, August 15, 2011

Word corner - nearly all you need to know about need

The word need can be a verb and a noun. As well as being a normal main verb, in British English it can also be used as a semi-modal verb. In addition it has a couple of special uses and there are several expressions based on it.

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Exercise 1 - Use the words and phrases in the box to complete the sentences.

of   ·   it   ·   bring   ·   for   ·   you   ·   about   ·   to pay   ·   to get
tidying   ·   for you   ·   a change   ·   bother
1.Don't go, I might need to help me with the supper.
2.The sitting room needs , could you make a start?
3.Let's go to the country this weekend, I need of air.
4.If that's all you can say, you needn't .
5.She really needs some rest, she's been working too hard.
6.There's no need to get up early tomorrow.
7.We'll supply everything. All you need is yourself.
8.I'm in need a good stiff drink.
9.You needn't worry a thing. Everything is taken care of.
10.There's food in the fridge if you need .
11.What do you need such a large car ? You don't have a family.
12.We didn't need for anything. It was all gratis.

As a normal main verb

It can be a transitive verb followed by an object:
  • He needs a new car.
  • I badly needed a haircut, so I went into town.
  • If you had needed money so desperately, why didn't you tell me?
Or it can be followed by a to infinitive:
  • We really need to tidy up the garden.
  • We've been needing to do it for ages.
  • We'll need to do it before Granny comes.
Sometimes it is followed by both an object and a to infinitive:
  • I need you to finish this report as soon as possible.
  • She needed him to help her move some furniture.
  • We need someone to look after the children.
As a main verb it is in theory a stative verb and so is not used in continuous tenses, however it does sometimes appear in Perfect continuous tenses. It tends to be used in some tenses more than others, and in some tenses it is normally only used in the negative and in questions.

As a modal auxiliary verb

In negative sentences, and less commonly in questions, need can be used like a modal verb. Here there are only two tenses -
Present - as with all modals, all forms are the same and we don't add do:
  • He needn't eat it if he doesn't want to.
  • Need she be there before nine?
Past - as with all modals, this is constructed with have
  • I needn't have bothered after all.
  • Need you have been quite so rude to him?
In questions, the modal form is perhaps slightly more formal than the normal form.


1. - The modal form is not usually used in positive sentences:
  • We need to go shopping.
  • We need go shopping.
2. - But it is used in positive sentences with certain restrictive words, mainly adverbs:
  • I need hardly tell you how important this is. (you should know already)
  • All you need pay for is the flight. We'll take care of everything else.
  • If she wants help, she need only ask.
3. - In the Present we can always use a normal verb form instead of the modal form.
  • We needn't go yet, need we?
  • We don't need to go yet, do we?
4. - But we can't always use a modal instead of a normal form. Modal forms are used for immediate or specific necessity. They are not used to talk about general or habitual need.
  • We don't need to take our passports, do we?
  • We needn't take our passports, need we?
  • You don't need to carry ID in Britain.
  • You needn't carry ID in Britain.
5. - needn't and mustn't.
  • You needn't tell her about the party, she knows already. -
  • You mustn't tell her about the party, it's a surprise. -
You needn't means you don't have to, it's not necessary. But you mustn't means you can't, it's necessary that you don't.
6. - need and have to.
We can sometimes use these more or less interchangeably
  • You needn't wash up, I'll do it.
  • You don't have to wash up, I'll do it.
  • Need she talk so loud?
  • Does she have to talk so loudly?

Talking about future necessity

We usually use a present tense of either the normal verb or the modal verb when making decision about the (near) future.
  • Does he need to bring his swimming things?
  • Need she pay in advance?
  • We don't need to leave for another hour.
  • You needn't do that, I'll do it later.
For future obligation, giving advice and making suggestions we can use the will form of the normal verb
  • You'll need to buy a resident's parking permit.
  • I'll need to think about this very carefully.
  • We'll need to think about leaving soon.
We can often use either, but the will form is less immediate, less direct, and can therefore be used to soften instructions.
  • You need to write this report this again - i.e. I think it's absolute rubbish
  • You'll need to write this report again - I'm sorry, but that's just the way it is.
  • We need to repaint the front door. - And soon! It's in a terrible state
  • We'll need to repaint the front door. - It's one of the things we could do in the future.

Didn't need to and needn't have done

Exercise 2 - Look at these sentences and say whether we did it or not, Yes or No.
1.We needn't have hurried as the bus was late.
2.We didn't need to hurry as we had plenty of time.
3.We didn't need to book as there were plenty of places.
4.We needn't have booked. Look! It's half empty.
Now read this discussion - Show

Something needs doing

Exercise 3 - Look at these sentences and say whether the person mentioned should necessarily do it themself, Yes or No.
1.I need to cut the grass.
2.The grass needs cutting.
3.She needs to cook the turkey.
4.The turkey needs cooking.
Now read this discussion - Show

When you're annoyed with somebody.

In the UK needn't can be used when you are angry with somebody and think they shouldn't do something or have no right to do something.

Exercise 4 - Use the verbs in the box to fill the gaps. One of them could go in two possible places, so you will have to do it by process of elimination.

imagine   ·   talk   ·   laugh   ·   think   ·   look   ·   bother
1.He needn't I'm going to work late again tonight!
2.You needn't ! It'll happen to you some day.
3.She needn't at me like that just because I said what I thought.
4.He needn't to me as though I was a child.
5.If she thinks I'm going to help her, she needn't . She never helps me!
6.You needn't even about it! You're not staying out late again tonight!

The verb - putting it all together.

Exercise 5 - Choose a suitable form of need plus the correct form of the words or phrases in the box to complete these sentences. Also include any words given in brackets. In some questions more than one construction is possible - read the discussion after you have done the exercise.

buy   ·   a hammer   ·   take   ·   water   ·   hurry   ·   change
a holiday   ·   phone   ·   rush   ·   do
1.I think the oil in the car probably . Could you check it, please.
2.She to get ready as he turned up twenty minutes late.
3.He for a taxi, as there was a taxi rank just by his front door.
4.I and some nails to put up this picture.
5.You a taxi, we'll collect you at the station.
6.He (never) his own washing, his mother has always done it for him.
7.We some more coffee, there's none left.
8.The plants in the sitting room . Can you do it?
9.We if we're going to get the station on time.
10.I've been working too hard lately. I badly .
In a couple of questions more than one answer might have been possible. Read this discussion after you have tried the exercise. Show discussion

As a noun

See if you can complete these sentences and work out how the noun is used. Afterwards, or if you get stuck, you can check with Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary

Exercise 6 - Use the words in the box to complete the sentences.

for   ·   individual   ·   be   ·   of   ·   do   ·   meet   ·   strong   ·   in   ·   basic   ·   the
1.This room is badly in need repainting.
2.There's a great need more affordable housing in this area.
3.A roof over your head and bread on the table are needs.
4.We have enough just about enough money to our needs.
5.He seems to have a desperate need to praised all the time.
6.There's no need everybody to go all at once.
7.She felt a need to get something off her chest.
8.Well I'll tell you one thing. I'm need of a stiff drink.
9.We have to give priority to those who are most need.
10.He gives a lot of money to the homeless and needy.
11.The training course is designed to meet students' needs.
12.I have needs too, you know! (can have a sexual connotation)

Collocations with need

Do the exercise, noting how the underlined words collocate with need.

Exercise 7 - Solve the anagrams to fill the gaps.

1.He badly needs a (r h a c i t u), it's getting far too long.
2.Can I use your (o o l)? I'm in desperate need of a pee. (very informal)
3.I don't need to think about getting up just yet. It's still (a e l r y ).
4.I hardly need tell you how pleased I was to hear your (s w e n).
5.You needn't bother with the washing up, we've got a (h e h i r a w s s d).
6.He doesn't need to worry about the (i b l l). We'll pay for everything.
7.We obviously need to look at this a in bit more (a l t i d e).
8.We are sorely in need of new (u t s o c m r e) since the existing ones are spending so much less nowadays.
Some of these are similar for both verb and noun. And often we have a choice whether to use the verb or the noun.
  • To desperately need something - To have a desperate need of / for something
  • Something is sorely needed - There is a sore need for something
  • We obviously need to do something - There is an obvious need to do something
  • You needn't bother doing something - There is no need to bother doing something
  • You don't need to worry about anything - There's no need to worry about anything

Idioms and expressions with need

See if you can complete the idioms and expressions in these two exercises and work out what they mean. Afterwards, or if you get stuck, you can check with Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary

Exercise 8a - Fill the gaps using the words in the box.

basis   ·   head   ·   hole   ·   indeed   ·   ask   ·   last   ·   all   ·   be
1.Oh no! A flat tyre, that's I needed!
2.If need we can always buy a new one.
3.We'll only tell the staff on a need to know .
4.A friend in need is a friend .
5.The thing you need on holiday is to have your wallet stolen.
6.Whose idea was it to have a bad taste party? - Need you ? Roger's, of course.
7.He did what? He really needs his examining that boy!.
8.Well I needed that like a in the head.

Exercise 8b - Fill the gaps using the words in the box.

say   ·   more   ·   to   ·   who   ·   every   ·   must   ·   hour   ·   no
1.He's always ready to help people in their of need.
2.Dinner was a disaster. Pete was cooking - need I say ?
3.Yet more hassles at work. I mean, needs it? I certainly don't!
4.There's need to take that tone with me, young man!
5.All the hotels are full, we'll just have to sleep in the car. Oh well, when needs !
6.Needless to , I'm really happy you could come.
7.Our expert staff will attend to your need.
8.Whatever was I thinking of? Sometimes I think I need my head seen !


  • Ex 1. - 1. you, 2. tidying, 3. a change, 4. bother, 5. to get, 6. for you, 7. bring, 8. of, 9. about, 10. it, 11. for, 12. to pay
  • Ex 2. - 1. Yes, 2. No, 3. No, 4. Yes
  • Ex 3. - 1. Yes, 2. No, 3. Yes, 4. No
  • Ex 4. - 1. imagine, 2. laugh, 3. look, 4. talk, 5. bother, 6. think
  • 1. all, 2. be, 3. basis, 4. indeed, 5. last, 6. ask, 7. head, 8. hole
  • Ex 5. - 1. needs changing, 2. needn't have rushed, 3. didn't need to phone, 4. need a hammer, 5. needn't take, 6. has never needed to do, 7. need to buy, 8. need watering, 9. need to hurry, 10. need a holiday
  • Ex 6. - 1. of, 2. for, 3. basic, 4. meet, 5. be, 6. for, 7. strong, 8. in, 9. in, 10. the, 11. individual, 12. do
  • Ex 7. - 1. haircut, 2. loo, 3. early, 4. news, 5. dishwasher, 6. bill, 7. detail, 8. customer
  • Ex 8a. - 1. all, 2. be, 3. basis, 4. indeed, 5. last, 6. ask, 7. head, 8. hole
  • Ex 8b. - 1. hour, 2. more, 3. who, 4. no, 5. must, 6. say, 7. every, 8. to

Printer friendly post

You can make a teacher copy with answers by clicking on 'Show All'. Make sure you 'Clear All' before printing student copies. Or you can print normally and the answers will appear on a separate page (Page 9). The lesson is on Pages 1-8. I strongly recommend doing a Print Preview first. You might want to change your margins and you certainly won't want to print every page.

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