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I have a question about the use of verb to need. Which of the following sentences is the correct form?

He needs to go there and not to participate
or
He needs to go there and does not need to participate.

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Refer to the quotes for quick answers (but I believe your question revolves more around fragments/setting a condition.)

  1. Your first sentence can be simply fixed by omitting "to" from "not to"

    He needs to go there and not participate.

  2. Your second sentence gives off a different nuance altogether by specifying conditional act i.e. he needs to do A, and/but not B. He has a choice. "Need" implies obligation but more often it serves as a strong suggestion. Compare with "has" for a better feel:

    He needs (or has) to go there but does not need (or have) to participate.

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Taken at face value, the sentences mean somewhat different things. The first sentence—

He needs to go there and not to participate.

—identifies two things that the subject of the sentence needs to do: (1) go there; (2) not participate.

In contrast, the second sentence—

He needs to go there and does not need to participate.

—identifies one thing that the subject of the sentence needs to do (go there) and one thing that he can either do or not do (participate), as he sees fit. The second item is optional because the sentence (1) says that he does not have to participate, and yet (2) does not say that he should not participate.

A somewhat clearer way to express the double requirement in the first sentence is to say this:

He needs to go there, but he also needs to refrain from participating.

And the second sentence might be made slightly clearer by saying this:

He needs to go there, but he does not need to participate.

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The first sentence has a valid grammatical meaning as written. It contrasts something that the subject needs with something that he does not need. Parsed thusly,

He needs [to go there] and not [to participate].

In other words, "He needs this and not that." The first sentence therefore carries the same meaning as the second sentence, "he needs to go there and does not need to participate."

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I am a native speaker of British English.

1 Your first sentence is so unclear that we can only guess what you mean.

2 The contrast between the first and second parts of the sentence really demands 'but' rather than 'and'.

3 Your second sentence is clear but would be improved by 'but': He needs to go there but does not need to participate. The meaning is that 'going' is obligatory but 'participating' is optional.

4 To need is a regular verb but there is also a modal verb need whose infinitive has no 'to' in front of it; and which is followed by an infinitive without 'to'. It is used only in the negative and question forms. This gives us a choice of verbs--need or to need--if we are using negative of question forms. For example: 'He needs to go there but does not need to participate' or 'He needs to go there but need not participate'; or using a contraction, 'He needs to go there but needn't participate'.

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  • 'It is used only in the negative and question forms.' I wouldn't say so definitely. What about: All he need is something or do something or She need only do something and that's all? – Yuri Gagarin Nov 2 '19 at 9:26

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