"Indeed, whoever buys this needs to want a tablet and laptop in more or less equal measure."

"Needs to want"? Isn't it a kind of unnecessary way around saying:

"I think that people buy this if they want a tablet and laptop in more or less equal measure."?

Or am I missing something?

  • Adding needs to expresses a higher level of desire.
    – Barmar
    May 23, 2014 at 18:44
  • I'd say, use only one of the words. Needing and wanting are more or less opposites of each other, therefore your sentence doesn't make too much sense. You might want to say it like Whoever buys this has to have a tablet and laptop in more or less equal measure, though.
    – paddotk
    May 23, 2014 at 18:52
  • 1
    needs to = should -- "whoever buys this should be wanting a tablet". That may clarify, but the sentence is fine as it is.
    – Kris
    May 24, 2014 at 12:59

3 Answers 3


It's a way of expressing a very conditional usefulness of the product. Without context, the sentence is slightly ambiguous, but I take it from the sentence that the buyer must desire both qualities in order for the product to be useful, otherwise it may not be what they were looking for.

So your sentence "I think that ..." is not exactly the same as the first.

To better clarify the distinction, I'll use @FumbleFingers's example of replacing it with must. Using must actually exposes the ambiguity avoided with using needs to.

As a verb, there are two common usages of the word must: the first is an induction of sorts. For example, if your friend is angry and he often gets angry when he's hungry, you might say to another person "Oh, he must be hungry." This implies that you don't actually know, but it's most likely true.

The second indicates that what follows is necessary for some arbitrary reason. An example of this is almost a command, "You must go to the Dagobah system." Another example is a conditional statement, "If you want this job, you must be able to sit in front of a computer for 20 hours straight."

So with must we can mean two things (although the first is more likely than the second due to its usage/context):

"Whoever buys this must want a tablet and laptop in more or less equal measure."

This could mean "We can assume that anyone who buys this product wants a tablet and a laptop."

It could also mean "This product is most suitable for people who want both a tablet and a laptop."

Using needs to want instead of must (or wants, which implies the former interpretation of must as mentioned earlier) removes the ambiguity and clearly indicates the latter interpretation of the example used for must.

As @StoneyB eloquently explained in his/her answer, the sentence indicates that it's actually implied that what should be true isn't. That is, it seems that the speaker has noticed that one or more people have bought the product, been unsatisfied with it, and noticed the correlation between satisfaction and the desire for a tablet and laptop in one product.

If you remove the Indeed this implication disappears, so I believe my former points still stand when disregarding the usage of Indeed.


It's not a particularly graceful sentence; but it is not a superfluously verbose paraphrase of your rewrite.

Your version, with wants to instead of needs to want to, is a description of people who do buy the product.

But the author is not a market analyst; he is a product reviewer. He suspects that the statement in your version is not true: that many people who have bought and will buy the product may not want both a table and a laptop. He incorporates the deontic need to in order to warn people who are considering buying the product that they should not do so unless they want both a tablet and laptop.

  • 3
    I would say the writer has just clumsily settled on an idiomatically awkward version of "Anyone who buys this must want a tablet and laptop in more or less equal measure". Or "...must be someone who wants...", etc. May 23, 2014 at 18:33
  • 1
    @FumbleFingers I disagree. StoneyB does an adequate job of explaining this, but to make it even clearer, the author is using "needs to" to predict a hypothetical purchaser's future happiness with the product. With your rewrite the sentence could easily be interpreted as description of who will be buying it. The author is assuming that many people will buy the product, but many of them will be making a mistake as the subset that ought to purchase it "needs to want both a tablet and laptop."
    – Mordred
    May 23, 2014 at 20:13
  • @Mordred: Well, I'm certainly not going to disagree with your interpretation. The difference is a fine distinction, and it's really just idle speculation as to exactly what was in the mind of the author (although I'm tempted to suggest "Not much!" or "Cotton wool!" for anyone who could actually write such an ungainly construction! :) May 23, 2014 at 20:48
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    @FumbleFingers Fersher; but what I dislike is not needs to want* but the indeed and the in more or less equal measure, which derive from the Flatulent register. May 23, 2014 at 21:36
  • 1
    @Stoney: Indeed. (I take it Flatulent register would be shorthand for "manner of speaking characterised by much hot air and talking out of one's ass".) May 23, 2014 at 21:42

Needs to want does indeed sound awkward.

For maximal succinctness, consider:

"(Its) purchasers will want something that's roughly 50% tablet, 50% laptop".

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