What is a Need?

A need is a requirement, an urgent want, or a necessity. It can also be used to describe the situation or state of someone: They are in dire need of help. Generally, it is considered more important to meet one’s basic needs before working on wants or goals. This is the basis for the hierarchy of needs, which was first developed by Abraham Maslow in his 1943 paper Motivation and Personality.

The need for water, food, shelter, and other basics is considered a universal human need, though the amount of each required can vary considerably depending on environment and individual circumstances. Other types of needs include the need for companionship and the need to achieve self-actualization. The concept of need is often viewed as being a necessary component of psychological theory and practice, as it stimulates people to act toward their goals.

In grammatical usage, need behaves sometimes like an auxiliary verb and at other times as a main verb. When it is an auxiliary, it agrees with its subject and takes to before the verb following it in negative and interrogative sentences. It also combines with do in questions and negations: He needn’t go. It is commonly used with the definite article before names and places (as in I need you). It does not take -s when it follows he, she, it, or singular nouns.

When used as a main verb, it takes an infinitive without to and drops the usual terminating s: I need you to come. It is often followed by a present participle, such as I need to be, although it can also be used with past participles: I need have been, for example. In some regions of the United States, need with past participles is more common than in other areas.

Need can be found in a number of medical, social, and psychological contexts, including a person’s ability to benefit from treatment at the individual level, as well as in societal judgments about what is a legitimate need for health care, such as the need for prevention and intervention strategies. It can also be a factor in the evaluation of a new drug’s effectiveness.

Need is a common word in both business and everyday life. For example, a company might have to build a factory or hire additional workers to meet its needs for materials and labor. Similarly, an individual may need to acquire a certain skill to advance in their career or find employment. The most common use of the word, however, is in reference to a requirement for a specific service, such as healthcare or education. In this case, the term is usually defined by a government agency or non-profit organization. Typically, these groups make determinations about which individuals and groups are in need of assistance and develop programs to meet those needs. Individuals can also help their communities meet needs by donating to charities or volunteering their time. This is a way to satisfy the need for social connection and to contribute to society.