Hi. It’s konkaz (@konkazuk) here.
We’re going to work on some expressions for describing our needs in English with this article.
It is a fundamental step to be able to describe your “needs” to others whichever language you are learning.
There will be several examples appearing as you go on, so please be sure to read them aloud.
And when anything necessary for you to carry out comes up during your everyday life, remember the form of examples and apply your own situation to them, and then say it aloud.
Repeating this procedure will help you cultivating your ability to be able to think in English in the future!
Anyway, let’s have a look.
Say what you need aloud!
Let’s start with the word “need” which is the core of this article’s subject…
I need + noun
The usage of “need” is structurally quite similar to how it works with “want” which is explained in “Eigo-jiru vol.12”, however, since the word “need” is for describing your “necessity”, it has got an implication of some kind of urgency.
“I want a coffee!”
The sentence describes nothing but simply your desire.
“I need a coffee!”
However, with the word “need”, the sentence implies that there is a purpose behind its meaning, like… I need a coffee for doing something.”
Hence, the form of “I need + noun” is often followed by the sentence that tells the reason/purpose for it.
Anyway, let’s create some sentences with the form of “I need + noun” for the time being, and say them aloud.
Examples could be…
“I need a coffee.”
“I need her help.”
“I need a water.”
“I need a pen.”
“I need more time.”
“I need some money.”
Now, try to think of the reasons why you need these things, and then add the sentences to them.
The following patterns are frequently used to express the reason/purpose…
to + verb
so that ~
The sentences could be…
“I need a coffee to wake myself up!”
“I need her help because I’m totally stuck here!”
“I need a pen because I need to take some notes.”
“I need more time so that I will be able to solve this problem.”
“I need some money to buy a ticket.”
By the way, have you been reading them aloud???
If you are at the early stage of leaning to speak, I presume you are not really comfortable with hearing (or you hate to hear) your own voice pronouncing English words.
Recognising the difference between your own pronunciation and native’s could be daunting enough to make you feel like giving it a pass.
However, without hearing your own voice, no improvement can be made with your pronunciation.
That’s why the “soliloquy in English” is the ideal way to carry out your speaking practice.
Let us keep on outputting by making the most of its characteristic where nobody is around to hear you muttering.
I need something to + verb
When you haven’t got a specific idea of what you need, you can simply put “something” after “I need” for the time being.
“I need something.”
And you can explain what you need “something” for by adding “to + verb”, just like…
“I need something to write it down.”
“I need something to make a hole.”
“I need something to cut this rope.”
“I need something to clean this table.”
“I need something to fix this broken part.”
“I need something to move this heavy thing.”
You can also make it a little bit more descriptive by adding adjectives to “something.”
“I need something bright to wear while I cycle in the night.”
“I need something sharp to cut this wire.”
There are often some situations where you need to ask for the quality of “something”. In this case, the comparative form of the adjective is to be applied.
Therefore, let’s work on them too…
“I need something better than this one.”
“I need something stabler that this stool.”
“I need something more useful than this product.”
“I need something less complicated than this.”
By the way, “want” is basically used for “object”, so it is most likely followed by “something”, however, when it comes to “need”, it is also used for person(s) “someone/somebody” and for place(s) “somewhere”.
I need somebody/someone + to + verb
There is no difference in meaning between somebody and someone, however “somebody” tends to be used more often in spoken English.
Let’s try to create some example sentences…
“I need somebody to help me.”
“I need someone to pick me up at the station.”
“I need somebody to come with me.”
“I need somebody to teach me how to cook.”
Well, if you know the person you are asking for, then you can of course apply his/her name or personal pronouns instead…
“I need Paul to check my email.”
“I need her to stay in the hospital.”
“I need them to stay calm.”
“I need him to be my adviser.”
You can also put “who” after “somebody/someone” to explain what you are asking for the person…
“I need somebody who is available to work during the weekends.”
“I need someone who can lift up and remove this washing machine.”
“I need someone who has got a good knowledge about it.”
“I need somebody who has got a driver license.”
I need somewhere + to + verb
Example sentences using “somewhere” could be…
“I need somewhere to hide my car.”
“I need somewhere to leave my coat.”
“I need somewhere to store my paintings.”
Now, make your own versions and say them aloud.
The difference between “ need to ~” and “have to ~”
I need to + verb
Here are some examples with this form…
“I need to see my doctor.”
“I need to stop eating after 9pm.”
“I need to give her a call.”
“I need to cut down drinking.”
“I need to save up some money.”
Now, try to say what you need to do aloud by following the example sentences.
have to + verb
Right. Many of you might know the form of “have to ~”, which is also used for expressing your necessity.
However, I presume that there are people who often use the form but without paying much attention to the difference of it from “need to ~”???
Well, let’s get it clarified then…
Here, I’ve featured a couple of sentences, and as you can see that one is with the form of “need to ~” and the other is with “have to ~”…
- “I need to learn to swim.”
- “I have to learn to swim.”
When you use 1. “need to”, that is when you talk about things which you think are necessary to be done to achieve your goal. (big or small…)
For instance, you’ve found the fact that everyone else can swim very well apart from yourself, and obviously it doesn’t look good. So, you feel like improving the situation. Then, you will say…
“I need to learn to swim.”
You look at yourself objectively and feel like doing something to improve the situation to achieve your future goal.
On the other hand, when you use the form of 2. “have to~”, the necessity of doing things come from the element of outside your thought.
For example, you are planning to get a position for coaching beach volleyball at one seaside resort. You have thought that you will get it without a problem because you are so good at it and have coaching experience, too.
But now, you get informed that you must be good at swimming as well in order to pass the exam. So, you go like… “Whaaaaaaat???” After having understood the situation, you will say…
“I have to learn to swim.”
I see. You use the form of “have to ~” when the necessity comes out of obligation.
That’s why Japanese translation for “have to” is written the same way as the one for “must”…
Ultimately, when “have to” is used, you could be in the situation where you are forced to do the things, but even if you are not, there is definitely a vibe of reluctancy around it. w
Incidentally, the phonetic symbol of “have to” is… [hæf tə], therefore keep the letter “F” in mind, when you pronounce it.
So, basically when you do the things such as homework to submit, the tasks with deadlines, or anything you are asked to do against your will, you are to use this “have to”.
Anyway, imagine the situations for using both “need to” and “have to”, and construct the sentences… and then say them aloud!
“It is good to read example sentences aloud, however, if you don’t try to construct the sentences by yourself, the “ability to think in English” will not be equipped!”
Then, when do we use “must” and “should”?
Having done “need to ~” and “have to ~”, I suspect the ghosts of “must” and “should” have started looming up in some people’s head… so, let’s check them out, too!
I can say that I’ve lived here in England long enough, however, I don’t think I have ever used the word “must” during the normal conversation, to be honest…
If you hear somebody saying, “I must ~”, you might want to stop and tell the person to reconsider his/her plan.
“I must ~” is a damn stronger version of “I need to ~” and shows firm determination.
Therefore, if you hear the phrase starting from “You must ~” from someone you don’t really know about, it’s natural for you to get upset and you might go like… “Who the hell do you think you are!!!” w
However, because the word is very strong, “must” can be a useful word for telling some casual jokes.
“You must eat all the vegetables on your plate!!!”
…to your young kids who hate carrots and tomatoes.
“You must spend all your money before you leave here!”
…to the customers in the shop, etc.
The word “must” is usually applied in the situation where people are expected to follow certain rules which have been set by some authorities for the benefit of everyone.
For example, during our current Covid-19 pandemic situation, before you go into the building, you might see the sign that says…
“You must wear face coverings before you entre.”
or after you have boarded an aeroplane or rollercoaster, you will be informed like..
“You must fasten your seat belt.”
Japanese translation for “should” is often expressed as the same way as “must”, so if you look at it without knowing the context, I often get an image of middle-aged authoritarian in a suits telling me off with his finger pointing at me… “YOU SHOULD bra bra bra….” (but with a nuance of “must”) w
However, “should” is actually used with the vibe of “suggesting” or “advising” just like “You might want to ~” or “It’s better to ~”.
Therefore, if yourself is the subject of the sentence like… “I should ~”, it practically can be taken as the same meaning as “I need to ~”.
The examples could be…
“I should tell them not to come over yet, because the party is not ready yet.”
“I should tell her to take an umbrella, because it’s going to rain in the afternoon.”
“I should learn how to use computer, or I’ll be left behind like a caveman.”
You can see that the meaning of the sentence will not be changed even if you replace “should” with “need to ~”.
When anything necessary comes up during your everyday life, if you manage to think like… “Hey, what if I describe this in English?”, it’s a good symptom!!!
There are lots more I would like to mention about “have to ~”, “should”, “must”, however the focus of this blog-writing is “outputting/speaking”, hence I’m only sticking to the usage of these expressions which are appropriate for this time’s blog post.
Anyway, hopefully you’ve found the explanations and examples above are useful, and have tried your own versions, too.
Let’s keep it up!
👉 * Japanese version of this blog post