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Can we use "I can't come right now, I need to take a shower" if we are informing a friend? Or should it be "I can't come right now, I will need to take a shower"?

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"I can't come right now, I need to take a shower."

This means that because you have something else to do, namely taking a shower, you can't come right now. Note that it implies that even if you aren't going, you still need to take a shower.

"I can't come right now, I will need to take a shower."

This means that you don't necessarily need to take a shower now. However, if you were to come, you couldn't do it now because you would have to take a shower first. This does not imply that you need to take a shower unless you are going to come.

"I need" is a present need. "I will need" is a conditional need at an unspecified future time.

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Say, I am talking to a friend and he asks me to come for dinner at 8:00, and I say: I don't think I can make it, because I [will] need to shower first. Do I need the will part here? And if I drop the 'will' part what difference would it make? – Noah Feb 12 '12 at 8:27
Well, here the "first" part makes it clear that the shower must precede going to dinner and isn't necessarily a present need. So you don't need the "will". (Even if you presently need to "shower first" that doesn't mean you presently need to shower.) – David Schwartz Feb 12 '12 at 8:30
Base on your answer(the last line) if it's not a present need then I should be using will? – Noah Feb 12 '12 at 8:33
You should use "will" unless something else indicates that it's a conditional or future need. People do say things like "I can't go shopping with you next Thursday, I need to work." Here, it's clear that you don't mean you need to work now but next Thursday. English is very flexible about how you indicate time. – David Schwartz Feb 12 '12 at 8:54

If you say "I will need to take a shower", you mean "at some (understood) future time", which doesn't sound to me as if it matches your case, because the clause is supposed to be explaining why you can't come right now.

I think you can concoct a scenario in which it would make sense ("I can't come right now, I will need to take a shower later so I have to do my other chores now"), but without some such it will sound odd.

The fact that your shower might not be this very minute doesn't make any difference - the present tense is often used with future meaning in English (just as often as the so-called "future tense").

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I am trying to say: I can't come right now, because I need to take a shower first or right now. Which one is correct in this case? – Noah Feb 12 '12 at 5:09
If you can't come right now, then the thing that's preventing you is something in the present, so "I can't come right now, I need to take a shower." – Hellion Feb 12 '12 at 6:10

I need to take a shower is the correct variant in the situation you describe. The present tense is used because the need exists in the present.

In the following examples the future tense is used because the need will not exist until some time in the future:

  • If I decide to go out after all, I will need to take a shower.
  • As soon as I arrive I will need to find somewhere to eat.
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How do you know the need exists in the present? Nothing in the question, as far as I can tell, suggests this. (It's possible he only needs to take a shower if he's going to leave the house and presently has no plans to leave. But if he were to leave, he couldn't do so now because he'd have to shower first.) – David Schwartz Feb 12 '12 at 8:11
@David. My interpretation is as follows: The OP is justifying his refusal to come right now by saying he needs to shower. Exactly when, or even if, in the future the shower takes place is irrelevant. He perceives a present need for the shower, hence the present tense. – Shoe Feb 12 '12 at 10:05

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