What Is Need?

Need is a modal verb, meaning that it behaves sometimes like an auxiliary verb (like can or may) and other times like a main verb. When used 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: You need to work hard to pass this exam. When used as a main verb, it often follows a past participle and can be combined with the auxiliary verb do to form the transitive phrase need to have: You need to have studied for this exam. It can also be followed by a gerund and a preposition to form the transitive phrase needn’t have: You needn’t have waited for me.

A person’s needs and wants are essential to his or her quality of life. When a person’s basic needs are not met, it can lead to illness and death. The concept of needs is an important one in psychology, philosophy, biology, sociology and economics.

People can also talk about the need of a community or organization. This is often referred to as demand, and it can be influenced by various factors including resource constraints and cultural norms.

The need for health care services is another example of a societal need. This can be based on cultural, ethical or economic considerations. People may also have a need for social interaction, which is considered a basic need.

In the marketplace, a need can be tangible or intangible. A customer may need a product that provides a tangible benefit, such as food or shelter. Or a customer may need a service that provides an intangible benefit, such as expertise or time savings. For instance, a lawn service meets the need of customers who don’t have the time to maintain their own yards.

Some psychologists have argued that there are fundamental psychological needs that a person must satisfy for healthy mental functioning. These include the needs for belonging, achievement and autonomy. However, many other psychologists have rejected the idea of psychological needs.

Whether a college is need-blind or not, it’s a good idea to consider a student’s financial need when reviewing their application. This is because schools that are need-sensitive are more likely to offer aid to low-income students, and this can make a difference in the number of students who get into each school.

Allison is the Editor & Content Manager at College Raptor. In addition to writing and editing posts, she works on marketing and special projects. She graduated from the University of Iowa with a degree in English: Creative Writing.


In the United States, the word need is most commonly used as an auxiliary verb. It agrees with its subject, takes to before its verb and combines with do in questions, negations, and certain other constructions: He needn’t go so soon. It is also used in the negative to form the modal verb don’t need: You don’t need to apologize.