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Is "need of religion" grammatically incorrect as opposed to "need for religion"?

Or "need of salt" vs. "need for salt"?

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8  
It would be "He is in need of x", but "I have a need for x." –  user730 Dec 11 '10 at 16:22
    
@J.M.: I think this could be an answer. –  Kosmonaut Dec 11 '10 at 16:38
    
@J.J.: Ditto for me. –  Robusto Dec 11 '10 at 16:45
    
@Kos: I'd flesh it out if I could, but I'm just going by "ear" here. I don't really know how to justify my answer. :) –  user730 Dec 11 '10 at 16:46
    
When used as a subject, I think it is usually "need for": The need for food led them to abandon the small island and strike out across the open ocean in a tiny boat. –  Peter Shor Jun 25 '11 at 12:46

3 Answers 3

up vote 11 down vote accepted

With "of":

  • have need of: This is very formal usage, though, as simply using "need" would suffice

    They had need of shelter.

  • in need of: This is more commonly used in everyday English

    I am in need of clothing.

With "for":

  • need for:
    There is [a] need for discipline in the classroom.
    Using the article "a" in the above example would be superfluous but it may emphasize that specific need. With a qualifier, the article becomes useful, although it can also be done away with, as in:
    There is [an] urgent need for discipline in the classroom.
  • have a need for:
    I have a need for food.
    This usage is awkward, at best, but it is not grammatically incorrect. However, it is more commonly used in the negative
    I have no need for spiritual enlightenment.
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+1: Have need of sounds formal because it is nearly obsolete. –  Peter Shor Jun 25 '11 at 14:13

Due to insistence:

I'm merely going by ear here, but the usage that I was accustomed to would have me say "He is in need of (something)" and "I have a need for (something)".

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The use of prepositions after need seems to have changed greatly over the last 200 years. Consider the following Google Ngram. Before 1800, the noun need took the preposition of, over half of its uses occurred in the expression in need of, and it did not take an article. When it then started being more widely used as a noun in the mid-1800s, it started taking an article, but at first it still took the preposition of. In the early 1900s, for started replacing of. Nowadays, need usually takes for except in the expression in need of.

Google Ngram

So I would say that, except for in need of, current usage is to use the preposition for with need. I don't think I can call need of incorrect when used in the need of, since this was the usage 100 years ago, though. The construction "We have need of ..." still sounds better than "We have need for ...", but these are both becoming obsolete; current usage would be "We have a need for ...".

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My misinterpretation of Ngrams have fooled me again. Before 1800, need was indeed used as a noun outside the expression in need of (although over half the usages were instances of this expression), but it did not take an article: e.g., "There is great need of ..." I am changing my answer to address this discovery. –  Peter Shor Jun 26 '11 at 19:53

protected by RegDwigнt Apr 30 '12 at 11:50

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