What Is Need?


A need is an unfulfilled want or a deficiency in a person or group. It can be a basic necessity such as food or shelter or an aspiration such as love, success or freedom from oppression. The term is used in philosophy, biology, psychology and many other fields. Needs are often contrasted with wants, which are desires that are not vital for survival or function. Unlike needs, wants may not result in harm.

The auxiliary verb need is an important part of the English language, and it can be confusing to students of grammar. It takes an infinitive without to and is usually followed by a present participle, as in I need an apartment. It can also be used in negative and interrogative sentences, such as I don’t need to go. It is less common than can and might, and it doesn’t have a form for the past tense like could or might.

When planning a budget, it is helpful to categorize expenses as either needs or wants. The most critical expenses are considered needs, while wants are add-ons or optional expenditures that can be reduced to save money. For example, a new television can be a want, but you will likely still need food and shelter even if you don’t have one.

Some psychologists believe that people have a hierarchy of psychological needs, starting with the most basic physiological or lower order needs such as food and water and moving up to higher order psychological needs such as belonging and self-actualization. They have also argued that people tend to spend the most of their time and resources on meeting their lower level needs and may be unwilling or unable to meet their higher level needs until those are met.

In general, it is best to consider the needs of the entire population of a nation or region before deciding on policies and priorities. These might include needs related to infrastructure, education and health care. Some of these may be culturally specific, so it is helpful to examine the cultural context in which policies are implemented.

Need is a concept that has relevance to the fields of philosophy, biology, sociology and psychology, as well as economics and politics. The academic study of need was at its zenith in the 1950s, but the topic continues to be of interest to philosophers, scientists and others.

The word need is an adverb that means “to be required”. It can be replaced with another adverb, such as must, which implies that something is essential. It can also be replaced with a noun phrase, such as something I need to do or a thing I need to have, which refers to an object, event, activity or condition. The noun phrase must also be accompanied by an adjective, such as essential or compulsory. In addition, the noun phrase must be preceded by a preposition, such as in or to. This article is an abridged version of the original piece which was published on the WikiHow site on August 25, 2009. The full text can be read here.