Must vs Need - What's the difference? (2023)

must | need |

In transitive terms the difference between must and need

is that must is to make musty while need is to want strongly; to feel that one must have something.

In intransitive terms the difference between must and need

is that must is to become musty while need is to be required; to be necessary.

As verbs the difference between must and need

is that must is to do with certainty; indicates that the speaker is certain that the subject will have executed the predicateneed is to be necessary (to someone).

As nouns the difference between must and need

is that must is something that is mandatory or required while need is a requirement for something.

Other Comparisons: What's the difference?

Neednt vs Mustnt

Must vs Needs

Beneededto vs Must

Isneededto vs Must

Needto vs Must

Musthave vs Need


Etymology 1

From (etyl) . More at .



  • to do with certainty; (indicates that the speaker is certain that the subject will have executed the predicate)
  • If it has rained all day, it must be very wet outside.
    You picked one of two, and it wasn't the first: it must have been the second.
    The children must be asleep by now.
  • You must arrive in class on time. — the requirement is an imperative
    This door handle must be rotated fully. — the requirement is a directive
    Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. (Bible, Acts 9:6)

    * 1936 , , More Poems , IX, lines 3-6*: Forth I wander, forth I must ,*: And drink of life again.*: Forth I must by hedgerow bowers*: To look at the leaves uncurled* 1937 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit *: We must away ere break of day*: To seek the pale enchanted gold.* 1968 Fritz Leiber, Swords in the Mist *: Whereupon while one patched or napped, the other must stand guard against inquisitive two- and three-headed dragons and even an occasional monocephalic.

    Usage notes

    * (sense) Compare with weaker auxiliary verb (should), indicating a strong probability of the predicate's execution.* (sense) Compare with weaker auxiliary verb (should), indicating mere intent for the predicate's execution; and stronger auxiliary verb (will), indicating that the negative consequence will be unusually severe.* The past tense of "must" is also "must"; however, this usage is almost always literary (see Fritz Leiber quotation above). The past sense is usually conveyed by (had to). It is possible to use (be bound to) for the past also. For this reason, (have to) and (be bound to) are also used as alternatives to (must) in the present and future.* The principal verb, if easily supplied, may be omitted. In modern usage this is mainly literary (see Housman and Tolkien quotations above).* (term) is unusual in its negation. (term) still expresses a definite certainty or requirement, with the predicate negated. (term), on the other hand, is negated in the usual manner. Compare::: You must not' read that book. (''It '''is''' necessary that you '''not read that book. ):: You need not' read that book. (''It '''is not necessary that you read that book. )* The second person singular no longer adds "-est" (as it did in Old English).

    See also



    (en noun)

  • Something that is mandatory or required
  • If you'll be out all day, a map is a must .

    * imperative


    * no-no

    Etymology 2

    (etyl) must, most, from (etyl) mustum


    (en noun)

  • The property of being stale or musty
  • Something that exhibits the property of being stale or musty
  • Fruit juice that will ferment or has fermented, usually grapes
  • * Longfellow
  • No fermenting must fills the deep vats.


    (en verb)

  • To make musty.
  • To become musty.
  • External links

    * (wikipedia "must")

    Etymology 3

    (etyl) .


  • A time during which male elephants exhibit increased levels of sexual activity and aggressiveness (also musth)
  • * 1936 , George Orwell, Shooting an Elephant'' essay in magazine ''New Writing
  • It was not, of course, a wild elephant, but a tame one which had gone ‘must’.




    Etymology 1

    From (etyl) need, nede, partly from (etyl) . More at (l). Old norse nauð(r) ("powerty,distress, lack of")


    (en noun)

  • A requirement for something.
  • * (William Shakespeare) (1564-1616)
  • I have no need to beg.
  • * (Jeremy Taylor) (1613–1677)
  • Be governed by your needs , not by your fancy.
  • *{{quote-magazine, date=2014-06-14, volume=411, issue=8891, magazine=(The Economist)
  • , title= It's a gas, passage=One of the hidden glories of Victorian engineering is proper drains.

  • Something required.
  • Lack of means of subsistence; poverty; indigence; destitution.
  • * (William Shakespeare) (1564-1616)
  • Famine is in thy cheeks; / Need and oppression starveth in thine eyes.
    Usage notes

    * Adjectives often used with "need": urgent, dire, desperate, strong, unmet, bad, basic, critical, essential, big, terrible, modest, elementary, daily, everyday, special, educational, environmental, human, personal, financial, emotional, medical, nutritional, spiritual, public, developmental, organizational, legal, fundamental, audio-visual, psychological, corporate, societal, psychosocial, functional, additional, caloric, private, monetary, physiological, mental.

    Derived terms

    (Derived terms)* if need be* in need, in need of; a friend in need is a friend indeed* need-based* needful, needfully, needfulness* needless, needlessly, needlessness* needy, needily, neediness

    Etymology 2

    From (etyl) neden, from (etyl) .


    (en verb)

  • To be necessary (to someone).
  • * , II.ix:
  • More ample spirit, then hitherto was wount, / Here needes me.
  • (label) To have an absolute requirement for.
  • * {{quote-news, year=2011, date=October 1, author=Tom Fordyce, work=BBC Sport
  • , title= Rugby World Cup 2011: England 16-12 Scotland, passage=Scotland needed a victory by eight points to have a realistic chance of progressing to the knock-out stages, and for long periods of a ferocious contest looked as if they might pull it off.}}

  • (label) To want strongly; to feel that one must have something.
  • * {{quote-magazine, year=2013, month=July-August, author=(Henry Petroski)
  • , title= Geothermal Energy, volume=101, issue=4, magazine=(American Scientist), passage=Energy has seldom been found where we need it when we want it. Ancient nomads, wishing to ward off the evening chill and enjoy a meal around a campfire, had to collect wood and then spend time and effort coaxing the heat of friction out from between sticks to kindle a flame. With more settled people, animals were harnessed to capstans or caged in treadmills to turn grist into meal.}}

  • (label) To be obliged or required (to do something).
  • (label) To be required; to be necessary.
  • * (John Locke) (1632-1705)
  • When we have done it, we have done all that is in our power, and all that needs .
  • * {{quote-magazine, date=2013-06-28, author=(Joris Luyendijk)
  • , volume=189, issue=3, page=21, magazine=(The Guardian Weekly), title= Our banks are out of control, passage=Seeing the British establishment struggle with the financial sector is like watching an alcoholic who still resists the idea that something drastic needs to happen for him to turn his life around.}}

    Usage notes

    * The verb is construed in a few different ways:** With a direct object, as in “I need your help.”** With a to -infinitive, as in “I need to go.” Here, the subject of serves implicitly as the subject of the infinitive.** With a clause of the form “for [object] to [verb phrase]”, or simply “[object] to [verb phrase]” as in “I need for this to happen” or “I need this to happen.” In both variants, the object serves as the subject of the infinitive.** As a modal verb, with a bare infinitive; in negative polarity contexts, such as questions (“Need I say more?”), with negative expressions such as not (“It need not happen today”; “No one need ever know”), and with similar constructions (“There need only be a few”; “it need be signed only by the president”; “I need hardly explain the error”). .** With a gerund-participle, as in “The car needs washing”, or (in certain dialects) with a past participle, as in “The car needs washed”[] (both meaning roughly “The car needs to be washed”).** With a direct object and a predicative complement, as in “We need everyone here on time” (meaning roughly “We need everyone to be here on time”) or “I need it gone” (meaning roughly “I need it to be gone”).** In certain dialects, and colloquially in certain others, with an unmarked reflexive pronoun, as in “I need me a car.”* A sentence such as “I need you to sit down” or “you need to sit down” is more polite than the bare command “sit down”, but less polite than “please sit down”. It is considered somewhat condescending and infantilizing, hence dubbed by some “the kindergarten imperative”, but is quite common in American usage.

    You Need To Read This: How need to vanquished have to, must, and should.” by Ben Yagoda, Slate, July 17, 2006

    * (desire) desire, wish for, would like, want, will (archaic)* (lack) be without, lack* (require) be in need of, require

    Derived terms

    * needed, unneeded* need-to-know basis




    External links



    1. Must vs. Have to - What is the difference?
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    2. Skills vs. competencies – what’s the difference, and why should you care?
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    3. HAVE TO vs MUST: Learn the difference between these two modal verbs (English grammar lesson)
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    4. Must or Have to? What's the difference? Perfect English Grammar
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    5. HOW TO USE: Modal verbs "have to" and "must" | What's the difference [English Grammar Lesson]
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    6. The difference between Must vs Have to - English Lessons with inlingua Vancouver
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