I wonder if it's okay to use these interchangeably:

  1. You need just accept it.
  2. You need to just accept it.
  • "You just need to accept it." Would be simple and clear. – Fraser Orr Nov 23 '12 at 21:38

Need can either be a regular verb, or a modal verb. When need is used as a modal verb, it does not take to. The modal verb is used in current day English mainly in the negative:

It need not have happened.

but I believe that some people also still use need as a modal verb when it is followed by certain adverbs, which would justify the use of "You need just accept it." I also believe that this usage was much more common 100 years ago.

If need is used as a modal verb, it does not get conjugated. Googling "he/she/it need simply" yields quite a few instances of this construction.

  • 2
    The list of adjectives the modal need is used before also includes only, merely, simply, hardly. I don't know that it's often used before just, but just definitely fits in with the rest of the list. It also sounds O.K. to me, whereas adverbs such as He need urgently ... don't. So if you saw this usage somewhere, I am fairly sure that need was being used as a modal verb. – Peter Shor Jun 12 '11 at 17:30
  • According to the article on auxiliaries at Wikipedia 'The status of dare, need (not), and ought (to) is debatable' - and if they are not considered auxiliaries, they cannot be in the subset of modals. There is a semantic requirement in the definition of modals (re modality!), which I consider need does fulfil. However, its syntactic behaviour resembles that of help to some extent, in that it catenates with both bare infinitives and to-infinitives. Help is certainly never modal by any definition. I think we're in danger of not separating permitted style of catenation from modal nature. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 24 '12 at 17:59
  • @Edwin: if you want to call them semi-modals rather than modals, go ahead. It's probably better terminology. But you can say (in many dialects) "he need not take", "he dare not take", "he ought not take". You can never say "he help not take". – Peter Shor Nov 24 '12 at 18:07
  • Wikipedia: The verbs/expressions dare, ought to, had better, and need not behave like modal auxiliaries to a large extent, although they are not productive in the role to the same extent as [should, may ...]. Furthermore, there are numerous other verbs that can be viewed as [']modal verbs['] insofar as they clearly express modality in the same way that the verbs in this list do, e.g. appear, have to, seem, etc. In the strict sense, though, these other verbs do not qualify as modal verbs in English because they do not allow subject-auxiliary inversion, nor do they allow negation with not. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 24 '12 at 19:53
  • @Edwin: I don't understand your point. I largely agree with Wikipedia here, although I would add that ought, dare, need have somewhat different syntax in different dialects. – Peter Shor Nov 24 '12 at 20:34

No, it's not okay to use these interchangeably. They both work, but it depends on what they precede.

You need a car to get there.

Here, need is followed by a noun, therefore no to.

You need to get there as fast as possible.

Here, need is followed by a verb, therefore a to is required.

Both in one sentence:

You need a car to get there and you need to get there as fast as possible.

In your example, accept is a verb, therefore a simple sentence would look like this:

You need to accept this.

By inserting just, you can extend it to:

You just need to accept this.

Or probably other forms, which should still be correct, but less common:

You need just to accept this.
You need to just accept this.

Either way, to is never ommited, as it was in the first, simplest example.

  • This grammatical requirement of to is observed more in the breach in today's speech and some writing practice -- it is quite common to say "You need just accept this." – Kris Nov 24 '12 at 4:19

In conversational American English, you should use an article or "to" following "need".

You need to do this.

You need a new car.

Does he need a pen?

She needs to accept this.

It isn't "wrong" to omit the article or "to", but it is rather uncommon. If you do it you're going to sound like a know-it-all, and risk coming across as very rude.

Update: Case in point, see the comments.

The negative form, "need not" or "needn't", is less pompous but still very formal:

You needn't raise your voice.

A teacher might scold a student in this way.

Saying "need just _" is going to sound unusual and incomplete haughty to an American audience.

  • 2
    One need but expand one’s reading a bit to see that this is anything but true. – tchrist Nov 23 '12 at 21:30
  • 1
    Your comment does more to prove than disprove my point. – Andrew Nov 24 '12 at 3:40
  • 2
    I meant beyond whatever it is you are reading that has so impoverished a set of syntactic constructs as not to contain modal need. What I wrote is perfectly palatable in American English. Things like he need only and she need but need no to following them, not even in American English. You are making up a distinction that does not exist. – tchrist Nov 24 '12 at 3:54
  • And "I need hardly remind you" that lots of Americans speak real English. Okay - I admit that does sound a bit "haughty", even to a Brit! – FumbleFingers Nov 24 '12 at 4:11

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