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Session 20

Do you know the difference between 'needn't' and 'not need to'? Sam's is going to tell us. Find out in this English In A Minute - our 60 second free English class.

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    Activity 1

Activity 1

Needn't vs Not need to

Do you know the difference between 'needn't' and 'not need to'? Sam's is going to tell us. Find out in this English In A Minute - our 60 second free English class.

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Sam

Hi, everybody. I’m Sam, and in this lesson I’m going to talk about need. Do you know the difference between needn’t and not need to?

Look at these two sentences in the present – is the meaning the same or different?

You don’t need to worry about the exam. You’ve studied lots.
You needn’t worry about the exam. You’ve studied lots.

They’re the same right? Maybe needn’t is a little bit more formal, but the meaning is that there is no necessity for you to worry.

Now look at these two sentences in the past:

He didn’t need to worry about the exam. He had already passed the course.
He needn’t have worried about the exam. It was really easy.

These are different! In the first sentence, he had already passed the course, so he knew he didn’t need to worry.

In the second sentence, he didn’t know the exam was going to be easy, so he was worried, but he needn’t have been.

Needn't vs Not need to

We can use needn’t and not need to in the present and both mean something is not necessary.

The meaning is the same, but needn't is slightly more formal.

  • I needn't go to work tomorrow as it's a holiday.
  • I don't need to go to work tomorrow as it's a holiday.

When we use needn’t and not need to in the past, the meaning is different.

Didn't need to do something means that we did not do something and it wasn't necessary.  

Needn't have done something means that we did something, but it wasn't necessary.

  • I didn't need to go to work today, so I stayed in bed.
  • I needn't have gone to work today. I didn't realise it was a holiday. What a mistake!

 

 

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