Need is utilised as a normal and also a modal verb (similar to ‘can’, ‘shall’...).

e.g. I don’t need; I need not.

Is it correct to say need I not or needn’t I for the interrogative form?

  • 1
    If the sun is shining, need I not take an umbrella?, sounds perfectly fine to me.
    – WS2
    Commented Feb 12, 2015 at 21:13
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    An umbrella is a needful thing. We must needs carry an umbrella even when the sun does shine for grey clouds may lurk upon the horizon, carrying rain our way. The usage is somewhat antiquated. Commented Feb 12, 2015 at 21:36
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    @FumbleFingers Need we report the matter?, Need we not report the matter? They sound alright to me. I probably wouldn't use them when speaking to the milkman need I not pay you weekly?. But I might when writing to the Inspector of Taxes need I not declare the balance in my Swiss account?
    – WS2
    Commented Feb 12, 2015 at 22:00
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    +1 for an interesting (indirect) observation. Never thought about it before, but this semi-modal is markedly more natural in positive questions (“Need I say more?”) than in negative ones. Commented Feb 12, 2015 at 22:32
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    @Janus: I think you have figured it out. With, "need" the semi-modal is used mainly in negative statements and positive questions, and the regular verb in positive statements and negative questions. (Dare seems to be different ... I don't think many people say "Don't I dare to ...") Commented Feb 12, 2015 at 22:49

1 Answer 1


Yes, it is correct. Even though usage of the word needn't may be considered antiquated, the phrase:

[ You | They | We ] needn't worry.

is still widely used. The modal verb need is also widely used in signage and legal language, because it uses less words than the regular verb need:

Minors need not apply.


Minors do not need to apply.

Using the modal verb need in spoken English may solicit some weird looks from people, but it is technically correct.

Rules of thumb for the modal verb need:

[subject] need [regular verb]. -- declaration

Need [subject] [regular verb]? -- interrogative

For example:

He needn't apply.

You need apply.

Need he go?

Need I stay?

Rules of thumb for the regular verb need:

[subject] [verb] need(s) [infinitive verb]. -- declaration

[verb] [subject] need(s) [infinitive verb]? -- interrogative

For example:

He needs to apply.

You don't need to apply.

Might he need to go?

Don't I need to go?

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