Do the following two sentences mean the same?

A: If you improve the quality of your data, less data is needed to achieve an error rate of 30%.

B: If you improve the quality of your data, less data is necessary to achieve an error rate of 30%.

What are the differences of those two words (especially in the two senteces above)?

  • Have you looked the words up in a dictionary? – Kevin Workman Aug 18 '14 at 15:48
  • @KevinWorkman: I have looked at leo (I'm from Germany): needed: benötigt; necessary: nötig. Seems to be the same. But I guess they are not. That is the reason why I am asking. – Martin Thoma Aug 18 '14 at 15:52
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    In your example context, there's no meaningful distinction between needed and necessary (or alternatives such as required). The possibility of there being a difference in other contexts is probably Too Broad (though that question isn't being explicitly asked anyway). – FumbleFingers Aug 18 '14 at 16:42
  • Definitely feels like context is important here, yes. In this case, they work the same way. In other cases, I can think of differences, but as @FumbleFingers says, that would likely be too broad. – Karl Aug 18 '14 at 23:15

In common vernacular--especially the spoken word--I would suggest that there is very little difference. However, in formal speech and writing the difference can be great (perhaps especially in legal documents).

In your example, I would actually suggest a different word entirely: "required"

However, in logic statements we use the term "necessary condition." To differentiate in your example, data is "necessary" to form an analysis at all, and additional data may be needed (required) to achieve a degree of accuracy.

This all rubs up against "word choice," which is the subjective selection of words by the author.

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    I don't see what you're getting at with in formal speech and writing the difference can be great. If you can think of a context (reasonably closely related to OP's) where there's a significant difference, I think you should share that with us. – FumbleFingers Aug 18 '14 at 23:19
  • Happy to explain. – Jeffrey J. Hardy Aug 20 '14 at 13:17
  • As an example, let's take the words "will" and "shall." For common speech and writing, they are used almost interchangeably. But in formal communications, the two words are very different. In legal documents, "shall" carries the power of potential enforcement and violating the related term can be considered an immediate breach of contract. "Will" is softer and communicates intent. When politicians are creating laws, the same occurs. What I am saying in my initial reply is that you should pay special attention when using the words "needed" and "necessary" if such formal communications. – Jeffrey J. Hardy Aug 20 '14 at 13:24
  • The fact that legal texts still tend to use shall where mainstream English now invariably uses will doesn't really seem relevant. Firstly because that's just a matter of word choice (with no semantic implications), and secondly because we're talking here about a putative difference between necessary and needed (specifically in the context of describing some precondition required in order to obtain a specified outcome). – FumbleFingers Aug 20 '14 at 13:38
  • So what is actually the difference between "needed" and "necessary" in such formal communication? – HelloGoodbye Jul 2 '18 at 14:19

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