What is the difference between 'need to + verb' & 'need to be verb-ing'?

For example:

1 You really need to be using argan Oil on Your Face. 2.You really need to use argan oil on your face.

As above, which sentence is correct?

Thank you!


They are both correct. It depends on what you are trying to say.

You really need to be using argan oil on your face.

This says that, at this moment, you need to be in the process of using argan oil on your face. It's the same thing as saying I wish I were having a massage right now.

You really need to use argan oil on your face.

This is a general statement. It either means that you need to use the oil in order to accomplish some purpose or it's talking about a need to use it in a habitual way. (Or possibly both.) It's the same thing as saying A massage would make me feel better or I wish I could afford to have massages on a regular basis.

In short, the -ing form of the verb is talking about something that is currently in the process of taking place, while the bare infinitive form is more of a general statement. People will often, and idiomatically, use the -ing form when they aren't really talking about something being in the process of happening at the moment. But, in terms of the syntax, that's what the verb form means. ((In other words, they use the -ing form when they should really be using the bare infinitive. But, despite that, their meaning is still clear because we're used to hearing it used in this way.)

  • Surely You need to be using... could also refer to habitual use. At present I am taking anti-histamines for my hayfever doesn't have to mean I'm in the act of swallowing a tablet right now. – Kate Bunting Apr 10 '19 at 8:28
  • @KateBunting It can be used and meant that way—but you need to use would be the more appropriate form for something habitual. And taking pills can mean that you are presently engaged in following a regimen as prescribed by a doctor—not necessarily the physical act of swallowing. (The verb has different senses. It would also apply to taking a university course, a process that can last a year.) – Jason Bassford Apr 10 '19 at 8:35
  • 1
    I don't see that taking pills is any different from using X on my face; it's something you are currently doing every day. – Kate Bunting Apr 10 '19 at 8:48

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