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need +‎ -n't.


  • IPA(key): /niːdn̩t/
  • (file)
  • Hyphenation: need‧n't



  1. (negative auxiliary, chiefly British, formal, or literary) Need not[1].
    • 1871 April 1, M. A. Paull, “‘I Needn’t Sign.’ (A Story for Wives, Founded on Fact.)”, in The Western Temperance Herald: The Official Organ of the Western Temperance League, volume XXXV, number 4, London: Houlston & Sons, 65, Paternoster Row; Yeovil: Clinker & Tite, OCLC 39706394, page 54:
      I've worked many's the time to make up for the wages he's squandered, and I need a drop to keep up my strength. Take it good and leave it good, that's what I do; and if Jem did the same, he'd be welcome to it for all I should say to him, and he needn't sign no more than me. The [temperance] pledge is a very good thing for them as can't manage theirselves, and its kind in you, Mr. Watts, to come round and talk to the people, and get the drunkards to leave off the drink; but, bless you, I needn't sign.
    • 1926 July, D[avid] H[erbert Richards] Lawrence, “The Rocking-Horse Winner”, Harper's Bazaar, New York, N.Y.: Hearst Corporation, OCLC 1639362:
      ‘Oh no,’ said the boy casually. ‘I won’t think much about them, mother. You needn’t worry. I wouldn’t worry, mother, if I were you.’ / ‘If you were me and I were you’, said his mother, ‘I wonder what we should do!’ / ‘But you know you needn’t worry, mother, don’t you?’ the boy repeated.
    • 1975, V. S. Naipaul, Guerrillas, New York, N.Y.: Alfred A. Knopf, →ISBN:
      There were perhaps half a dozen occasions on which he might have withdrawn and returned to the life that had been marked out for him. He needn't have been tortured in South Africa; he needn't have written his book; he needn't have taken the job with Sablich's; having taken the job, he needn't have become associated with Thrushcross Grange and Jimmy Ahmed.
    • 1996, Karel Čapek; M. and R. Weatherall, transl., “The Yacht on the Lagoon”, in War with the Newts, Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press, →ISBN, page 75:
      Of course, since he's Judy's lover he had to say she's got nicer legs! It's true he needn't have been so assertive about it. That wasn't very tactful towards poor Li; Li is right when she says that Fred is an egoistic lout. A terrible lout.
    • 2010 October, Haha Lung; Christopher B. Prowant, Mind Warrior: Strategies for Total Mind Domination, New York, N.Y.: Citadel Press, →ISBN, page 2:
      We needn't swing the bludgeon when bargaining is still on the table. We needn't beat our plowshares into swords so long as we can browbeat or otherwise befuddle our enemy into believing our way is the best way—the only way. Thus, we needn't bloodily and bodily slay a foe when we can startle, stifle, and, when need be, snuff out any flame of resistance to our will.
    • 2011, Mary Gordon, The Love of My Youth, New York, N.Y.: Pantheon Books, →ISBN, page 195:
      She needn't argue with Renee and Marian (she is speaking to them again) about the Black Panthers. She needn't worry that Lydia seems to be taking too many and more frightening drugs. She needn't keep it from Adam that she is smoking pot with her friends; []

Usage notes[edit]

  • Needn’t is not synonymous with mustn’t, except in questions. “Needn’t you do it?” and “Mustn’t you do it?” both mean “Don’t you have to do it?”, but “You mustn’t do it.” means you must avoid doing it and “You needn’t do it.” means you do not have to do it but presumably still may, though it can imply that doing so is pointless.
  • The auxiliary need, like the auxiliary dare, can only be used intransitively. “I don’t need to have it.” can be swapped with “I needn’t have it.” but “I don’t need it.” cannot be swapped with “I needn’t it.”, since that would require taking a direct object.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Arnold M. Zwicky and Geoffrey K. Pullum, Cliticization vs. Inflection: English n’t, Language 59 (3), 1983, pp. 502-513