I would like to compile a list of adjectives that can be used with the word "need", as in

In Country X there is [adjective] need of new methods to involve adults in learning activities

and the adjective expressing size (big or small and everything in-between).

Some adjectives that seem to be in use

  • considerable
  • extraordinary
  • inconsiderable
  • little

Others would probably sound odd: big, huge, large, vast, tremendous, enormous... at least as long as I do not want to do creative writing but rather write a standard text in an educated institutional context (here: a grant application for an international cooperation in the EU).

This is about good style, including precision and variation of expression.


  • 1
    The notion of "size" is usually expressed, in relation to "need," by "great. – Kevin Mark Mar 26 '17 at 11:54
  • In formal language also? Or rather in informal oral communication? – Christian Geiselmann Mar 26 '17 at 15:22
  • 1
    My intuition tells me that in (formal and informal) speech and writing we are much more likely to use "great" with "need" than "big." – Kevin Mark Mar 26 '17 at 15:25

There are adjectives that express "how great" a need is, or the "degree" to which something is needed. In practice the distinction amounts to one of nuance.

Here is a non-exhaustive list of typical adjectival collocates of "need" that match your request. Any of them could be used for the kind of purpose you mention, though words like desperate or dire obviously need to be used carefully in order not to sound as if you are exaggerating.

"In country X there is:"

*a great need for** / an urgent need for / a desperate need for / a dire need for / an as yet unmet need for / an immediate need for / a pressing need for / a critical need for

Alternative phrasing would be: "Country X is:"

in great need of / in urgent need of / in desperate need of / in immediate need of / in dire need of

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  • Would "ardent need" also be an acceptable combination? – Christian Geiselmann Mar 26 '17 at 15:21
  • Not to me. I don't think I have ever come across this combination. – Kevin Mark Mar 26 '17 at 15:26
  • I'm pretty sure I've come across "a burning need for" but not in the kind of context you mention. – Kevin Mark Mar 26 '17 at 15:47
  • google.com/… – Jim Mar 26 '17 at 21:34
  • @Christian Geiselmann To answer this kind of question about collocations a corpus is the best resource. As we've just seen the results can often be counter-intuitive. The web is a rough corpus, and as we have just seen, a good place to start. I went further, to SketchEngine.co.uk and compared, in a massive and consciously compiled corpus called EnTenTen 2013, , "burning need for" and ardent need for," The latter appeared 49 times, the former over 1000 times. So it looks like a matter of style. I suspect that "ardent need" will raise eyebrows from many. – Kevin Mark Mar 27 '17 at 1:08

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