A person’s needs are the things that they must have in order to function well in society. They may include physical goods such as food, shelter, and clothing, as well as emotional and psychological support. For example, a mother who feels abandoned by her husband may feel a need for companionship. The word need can also refer to a feeling of inadequacy or deprivation that may be generated by the lack of something that is necessary for one’s health or well-being. The academic study of need was at its peak in the 1950s, but is now a topic of much less interest among psychologists than it was then.
The term need can be confused with want, since both terms are commonly used in similar contexts. However, there is a distinction between them. Needs are essential for survival, whereas wants are desired but not necessarily essential for survival. For example, a person might need to buy a new car but could postpone buying it until he has the money to do so. Similarly, a person might desire to eat bread but does not need it for survival, so he can wait until he has the money to buy some.
In the field of economics, the terms need and want are important to understand. People often use the words interchangeably, but they have different meanings in the context of the field of economics. The need of a thing is the degree to which it is necessary for that thing’s existence or the ability of a person to function properly. The concept of need is closely related to the notion of scarcity, which involves the amount of resources that people and societies possess in relation to the number of things they desire or need.
Need is a verb that can act as either an auxiliary or main verb. As an auxiliary verb, it agrees with its subject, takes to before the verb following it, and combines with do in questions, negations, and certain other constructions: He needs to go. He doesn’t need to go.
As a main verb, it can be followed by a present participle, as in The car need’s washing, or by to be plus a past participle, as in The car washed need’s. The latter form is more common in some areas of the United States and the British Isles.
Need can also be used as a synonym for desire or craving, but with more emphasis on the necessity of having the item in question for one’s survival or well-being. For example, a person might crave or need for attention, safety, or success in their career. The word need can also be used to describe a psychological need for self-esteem or self-respect. In this sense, it is similar to the concept of a need for self-actualization, a psychological theory proposed by Abraham Maslow. It suggests that a person must fulfill his or her basic needs before he can move on to more complex and fulfilling goals, such as love and achievement.