Grammar Question – need
I would like to ask you if you can explain to me the verb “need”.
The more sources I check, the more confused I get. My problem is that
I’m not sure if that verb is ever used as a modal verb. I have actually
never heard of anybody using this verb as a modal verb but on the other
hand, some websites and some grammar books i checked say that “need”
belongs to modal verbs. I know for sure that Shakespeare used it that
Please explain it to me.
Now that’s a difficult question you have asked 😉
Need can be both an ordinary and a modal verb.
- the modal form is rarely used in American English
- the modal form is not used in the positive form – only in negatives, with certain ‘negative words’ and questions
- the modal form is only used in the present
Here are some good examples of the modal form.
Nobody need know what happened.
I hardly need tell you that what you did was wrong.
You needn’t come. It’s not important.
Need I say any more?
Of course, the exact same ideas can be expressed using the ordinary verb.
Nobody needs to know what happened.
I don’t really need to tell you what you did was wrong.
You don’t need to come. it’s not important.
Do I need to say more?
The modal verb is more often used when we are talking about a personal necessity and not an obligation posed from outside.
So it’s better (at least in British English) to say
You needn’t apologise. It’s fine.
Need I come? (You are hoping the answer will be ‘no’.)