Need or Needs? What’s the Difference?

Marcus Froland

Welcome to the world of grammar differences, where the right choice of words can make a huge impact on the clarity and quality of your writing. Today, we’re going to focus on the seemingly small but significant distinction between “need” and “needs.” The proper usage of these terms hinges on the grammatical concepts of singular vs. plural and verb conjugation. We will discuss these terms so you can understand how they work and apply them effectively in your writing.

But first, let’s take a look at a helpful visual aid to get your gears turning:

As you can see, this simple illustration offers a glimpse into the importance of proper grammar when it comes to verb conjugation. From this starting point, we’ll dive deeper into the distinctions between “need” and “needs” and how they function within various grammatical contexts. So grab a pen, take notes, and let’s dive in!

Understanding the Basics: How to Conjugate the Verb “To Need”

Conjugating the verb “to need” correctly is an essential skill for communicating clearly in English. This section covers the simple rules of conjugation and the key distinctions between singular and plural usage, building the foundations for better understanding of English grammar rules.

The Simple Rules of Conjugation

When conjugating the verb “to need” in the present tense, we adapt its form to match the subject of the sentence. This process follows a standard rule in English verb conjugation:

To need:

  • I, you, we, they, and any plural nouns: need
  • He, she, it, and any singular nouns: needs

By conjugating the verb according to these simple rules, we maintain subject-verb agreement and ensure our writing is grammatically correct.

Singular vs. Plural Usage

Maintaining proper English grammar requires more than just following basic conjugation rules. It also involves aligning the verb “to need” with the number and person of the subject. Here’s a refresher on how to apply these rules:

  1. Use “needs” for singular, third-person subjects (e.g., he, she, it, and any singular nouns).
  2. Use “need” for first and second person singular subjects (e.g., I, you), as well as for all plural subjects (e.g., we, they, and any plural nouns).

Ultimately, these distinctions clarify who or what is in need, helping us convey our message more effectively. By understanding the verb conjugation, English grammar rules, and differences in verb forms, and recognizing how singular nouns and plural pronouns affect subject-verb agreement, you can greatly improve your English writing skills and better convey your message to your reader.

The Passive Voice: When to Use “Needs to Be Done”

Passive voice construction is a useful tool in English when we want to emphasize the importance of an action or its completion, rather than concentrating on the person or entity performing the action. In these cases, using needs to be done or need to be done based on the subject’s singularity or plurality becomes essential. Let’s dive into the grammar tips that will help you understand this concept better.

First and foremost, let’s clarify the primary difference between needs to be done and need to be done in passive voice sentences. The former is used with singular nouns as the subject, whereas the latter is the appropriate form for plural nouns.

“The report needs to be completed by Friday.”

“The dishes need to be washed before dinner.”

Not only do these sentences put the focus on the action itself, but they also imply that it doesn’t matter who completes it. The essence of the passive voice is captured in these structures, prioritizing action completion over who is responsible for it.

Quick Tips for Proper Usage

  1. Identify if the subject is singular or plural: Know the difference to determine which verb form to use in the passive voice.
  2. Always use the verb “to be” with the past participle: In passive voice constructions, the verb “to be” is combined with the past participle of the main verb (in this case, “done”).
  3. Ensure proper subject-verb agreement: Choose “needs to be done” for singular subjects and “need to be done” for plural subjects.

Mastering the use of the passive voice with “needs to be done” and “need to be done” can greatly improve your English writing and expression, especially when the necessity of action completion takes precedence over the performer of the action. By following these grammar tips, you can confidently use passive voice constructions in all your future written communication.

Navigating “Need” as a Noun and Its Usage in American English

In addition to functioning as a verb, “need” can also serve as a noun in English. In its noun form, it is used to represent something necessary or required, which is evident in expressions such as “your needs” or “in need of.” Consequently, in these instances, “need” adopts the role of a subject or object in the sentence, referring to necessities or requirements. By comprehending this aspect of its use, you will gain a better understanding of the term’s function in English.

Identifying When “Need” Is Not a Verb

To recognize when “need” shifts its role from a verb to a noun, pay attention to its placement and role within a sentence. As a noun, “need” commonly appears with possessive pronouns like “your,” “his,” or “their,” followed by the plural form “needs.” This construction implies specific requirements or necessities that are desired by the subject.


The organization caters to the needs of the homeless community.

In contrast, the expression “in need of” illustrates a scenario in which the noun “need” operates as the object of the preposition “of.” This phrase emphasizes the deficiency or shortcoming of something that must be addressed.


They are in need of financial assistance to maintain their services.

Understanding “need” in its noun form is essential for appreciating its versatility and purpose in American English. By distinguishing between its verb and noun functions, you can convey your thoughts with improved accuracy and precision, ultimately enhancing your command over the language.

Here are some practical tips to help you recognize when “need” operates as a noun:

  • Look for possessive pronouns (e.g., your, his) followed by “needs.”
  • Take note of the expression “in need of” with the noun “need” acting as the object of the preposition “of.”
  • Remember that as a noun, “need” can be pluralized to “needs,” while the verb form does not change in this regard.

With a deeper understanding of “need” as a noun and its various applications, you can enhance your clarity and effectiveness in English communication. Mastery of this nuance empowers you to express yourself more precisely while also sharpening your language skills.

Grammatical Nuances: Exploring “In Need Of” and Common Mistakes

In this section, we’ll explore the frequently used grammatical expression “in need of” and discuss some common mistakes that people make when using it. This fixed expression is quite useful for conveying the necessity of something being done or acquired. By understanding and avoiding the pitfalls associated with this phrase, you can significantly improve your English communication skills.

One common mistake involving “in need of” is the incorrect use of the plural form “needs” in this expression. Remembering that “need” as a noun does not have a plural form in this context is crucial for proper usage. This knowledge can greatly assist you in avoiding errors when you need to articulate requirements or shortages in various situations.

Incorrect: She’s in needs of a new laptop.
Correct: She’s in need of a new laptop.

Another mistake that some English learners might make is employing “in want of” in place of “in need of.” Though both expressions signify a desire for something, “in need of” carries a stronger sense of necessity or urgency, while “in want of” simply indicates wanting something without an immediate need for it.

Incorrect: He’s in want of medical attention.
Correct: He’s in need of medical attention.

To further illustrate the application of this crucial expression, consider the following examples:

  • The house is in need of major repairs before it can be sold.
  • They are in need of financial assistance to continue their education.
  • The plant is in need of more sunlight to thrive properly.

Mastering the grammatical nuances of the “in need of” expression can thoroughly enhance your English language skills. By learning from these examples, practicing error correction, and understanding the subtle differences in English phrases, you will be well-equipped for even the most complex linguistic challenges.

Practical Applications: Examples of “Need” and “Needs” in Sentences

Understanding the correct usage of “need” and “needs” is essential for effective communication in American English. Using these terms properly relies on grasping the rules of verb conjugation and knowing when “need” functions as a noun. To better apply these rules in your everyday language, let’s examine some sentence examples.

For instance, the phrase “He needs to come here” demonstrates the appropriate use of “needs” with a third-person singular subject (in this case, “he”). On the other hand, “The dishes need to be done” highlights the correct application of “need” with a plural noun (the dishes). Observing these examples can help reinforce the rules of subject-verb agreement relating to “need” and “needs” in American English.

Furthermore, consider the sentences “Our car needs to be replaced” and “They are in need of shelter.” In the first example, “needs” is used as the verb form with the singular subject “car,” while the second sentence showcases “need” in its noun form within the expression “in need of.” Through various examples like these, you can grasp the versatility and grammatical nuances of “need” and “needs” in English, enhancing your language application skills.