What is the meaning of "need not" in the following sentence?

The amount withdrawn need not be repaid.

Does it always mean that it must not be repaid, or does it also extend to persons who may wish to repay?

I am confused as to its interpretation. In my view it gives an option to the borrower to not have to repay, whereas it could also mean that the money should not be repaid.

  • 1
    Who says it means that the money should not be repaid? Where have you seen that interpretation? – Janus Bahs Jacquet May 12 '15 at 11:19
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    This is the NPI "semi-modal" use of need. In a negative context, as here, need works like any modal auxiliary verb: It can/may/must/need not be repaid. This behavior is optional; one could also say (and most likely would) It doesn't need to be repaid, as if need were a normal verb and not a modal auxiliary. The meaning of need not is like don't have to, rather than must not; in the affirmative, need to means must , and so does have to, but their negations are different. – John Lawler May 12 '15 at 13:31

Your view is correct. The implication is that it may be repaid, but certainly there is no need to repay.

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