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- needn't = don't need to? 5 answers
While doing some research on a comment I had read on ELL I read the following excerpt from a website called e.grammar
You needn't listen to him. (You don't have to listen to him.) x You don't need to listen to him. (There is no need to listen.) These two sentences are different in the form and meaning, too.
After reflecting, I started interpreting the two sentences like this:
"You needn't listen to him" = It is unnecessary to listen to that man. If you want to listen that is your choice, but it's not important.
"You don't need to listen to him" = It is not necessary to listen to that man. If you do you will only be wasting your time.
Is the second sentence more forceful, perhaps precluding the possibility of choice? Or is my mind playing tricks on me and in reality the two phrases have identical meanings?
I must admit to feeling bemused. Before reading the passage I would have said there was no difference in meaning between needn't and don't need. On the BBC Learning English I read this:
Needn't and don't need to
There is also a difference in use when these verbs are used to describe present situations. We can use both needn't and don't need to to give permission to someone not to do something in the immediate future. We can also use need as a noun here:
You don't need to water the garden this evening. It's going to rain tonight.
You needn't water the garden this evening. It's going to rain tonight.
There's no need to water the garden this evening. It's going to rain tonight.
This would confirm my initial belief; that there is no real difference in meaning but now... I'm not so sure. And if there is no difference, except for structure, why do the two forms exist side by side? Why or when did "need" become a modal verb?