Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 11
  1. #1
    Lenka is offline Senior Member
    Join Date
    May 2004
    Posts
    863
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default modal verbs: "needn't have done" vs. "didn't have to do"/"didn't need to do"

    I feel a bit confused about these three "verb forms": "needn't have done", "didn't have to do", "didn't need to do".

    Could you please try to explain the difference between them?

    I guess I can understand the difference between the "needn't have done" and "didn't need to do".

    What is the difference between "didn't have to" and "didn't need to"?


    Here is a "small exercise":
    Change the following sentences using modal verbs:

    a) Thank you for delivering the goods but it was not necessary. I was going to do it.
    => Thank you for delivering the goods but you needn't have done it.
    b) It was not necessary to check all data but I did it anyway.
    => I didn't have to do it. / I didn't need to do it.
    Are the sentences correct?

    Could one say Thank you for delivering the goods but you didn't have/need to do it. (for a)) and I needn't have done it. (for b))?
    I don't think it would be correct, I'd just like to make sure.


    If someone buys me for example an expensive present for my birthday, what shall I say?:
    Oh, thank you very much, but you needn't have bought such an expensive present!
    or
    ..... but you didn't have/need to buy it.
    ???

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Posts
    5,425
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: modal verbs: "needn't have done" vs. "didn't have to do"/"didn't need to do"

    Hmm-you're covering a lot of ground here!
    Let's look at some of the sentences you give:

    It was not necessary to check all data but I did it anyway.

    May I change this sentence a little, so that my explanation will be clearer?
    It was not necessary to type my essay but I did it anyway.
    I didn't need to do it, (but it helps me practice my typing.)
    I didn't have to do it. (The teachers will accept handwritten assignments.)
    You will hear speakers use both interchangeably; but "have to" has a sense of "must", it is a requirement.
    Look at this sentence:
    I have to write an essay on Global Warming, so I will need to go to the library and read up on it.

    It is a set requirement that you hand in the essay. To help you, you will consult books in the library for information on the subject.
    As I said, sometimes we use them interchangeably. Look at this sentence.
    "I have to write an essay on Global Warming. I need to get it done by Thursday."
    I could have said, "I have to get it done by Thursday, because that is the deadline."

  3. #3
    riverkid is offline Banned
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Posts
    3,064
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: modal verbs: "needn't have done" vs. "didn't have to do"/"didn't need to do"

    Quote Originally Posted by Lenka View Post
    I feel a bit confused about these three "verb forms": "needn't have done", "didn't have to do", "didn't need to do".

    Could you please try to explain the difference between them?

    I guess I can understand the difference between the "needn't have done" and "didn't need to do".

    What is the difference between "didn't have to" and "didn't need to"?

    Sometimes, in certain semantic situations, there's no difference, Lenka. More thought is needed to explain this further.

    Here is a "small exercise":

    ++++++++++++++++

    Change the following sentences using modal verbs:

    a) Thank you for delivering the goods but it was not necessary. I was going to do it.
    => Thank you for delivering the goods but you needn't have done it.

    b) It was not necessary to check all data but I did it anyway.
    => I didn't have to do it. / I didn't need to do it.

    ++++++++++++++++++++++

    Are the sentences correct?

    Yes, they are and they're a good example of what I mentioned above.


    Could one say Thank you for delivering the goods but you didn't have/need to do it. (for a))

    Yup, both would work.

    and


    I needn't have done it. (for b))?

    I don't think it would be correct, I'd just like to make sure.


    Here, "I needn't have done it" seems to be a bit on the polite side [not at all impossible, mind you] for discussing something you yourself did.



    If someone buys me, for example, an expensive present for my birthday, what shall I say?: Oh, thank you very much, but you needn't have bought such an expensive present!

    I needn't have done it.
    or
    ..... but you didn't have/need to buy it.
    ???
    In such a situation, these to me, sound a bit too strident, not soft enough given that someone has bought you an expensive gift.

    Oh, thank you very much, but you shouldn't have. [bought such an expensive present]!

    Often we stop after 'have', leaving the rest unspoken. Adding, "bought such an expensive present" sounds like a bit of an admonishment.

    OR

    Oh, thank you very much, this looks very expensive, ... you shouldn't have spent so much on me.


    Now, in all this, I must add a caveat. Modals express emotion and the thoughts I've expressed don't necessarily cover all situations, eg. where the parties know each other well, certain things I've said would not necessarily apply.

  4. #4
    riverkid is offline Banned
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Posts
    3,064
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: modal verbs: "needn't have done" vs. "didn't have to do"/"didn't need to do"

    Quote Originally Posted by David L. View Post
    Hmm-you're covering a lot of ground here!

    Hasn't she though, David?

    You will hear speakers use both interchangeably; but "have to" has a sense of "must", it is a requirement.
    Look at this sentence:
    I have to write an essay on Global Warming, so I will need to go to the library and read up on it.

    It is a set requirement that you hand in the essay. To help you, you will consult books in the library for information on the subject.
    That requirement though, doesn't necessarily have to come from an outside source, David. It could be completely "self-induced". In some cases, 'need to' also has a sense of 'must'.

    "I really need to go to the bathroom". Either 'must' or 'have to' would fit, don't you agree?

    Enough for tonight. You keep knocking away at these conundrums, David and I'll rest up for about 7 hours.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Posts
    5,425
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: modal verbs: "needn't have done" vs. "didn't have to do"/"didn't need to do"

    Half and half.
    In the bathroom example, it is the call of nature which is forcing one to go to the bathroom. I may not want to miss a second of some program on TV, but I have to go or else. If is my bladder condition which is forcing, rather than self-induced. In fact, it is against my will, right there and then.
    What is accepted in everyday speech, well............, but the person is really saying:
    I have to go/have to obey a call of nature. I need to use the bathroom.
    To take this differentiation any further would be getting into piddling pedantry ( to mix images!).

  6. #6
    riverkid is offline Banned
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Posts
    3,064
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: modal verbs: "needn't have done" vs. "didn't have to do"/"didn't need to do"

    Quote Originally Posted by David L. View Post
    Half and half.
    In the bathroom example, it is the call of nature which is forcing one to go to the bathroom. I may not want to miss a second of some program on TV, but I have to go or else. It is my bladder condition which is forcing, rather than self-induced. In fact, it is against my will, right there and then.

    You make this sound like the bladder exists outside of the speaker.

    I have to go buy some milk. [personal choice, nobody else compelling the speaker]

    I have to get up early tomorrow because I want to go hunting.

    [personal choice, nobody else compelling the speaker]



    What is accepted in everyday speech, well............,

    What is accepted in everyday language is what language is. Since people are the only ones to use language, how they use that language, in the broader sense, defines language use. [a rough paraphrase of the linguist, Dwight Bollinger [now deceased].


    To take this differentiation any further would be getting into piddling pedantry ( to mix images!).
    Figuring out, accurately, how language works isn't pedantry, David, it's science.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Posts
    5,425
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: modal verbs: "needn't have done" vs. "didn't have to do"/"didn't need to do"

    Frankly, Riverkid, I was not referring to the process of mastering language as 'piddling pedantry", but this debate with you.

  8. #8
    riverkid is offline Banned
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Posts
    3,064
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: modal verbs: "needn't have done" vs. "didn't have to do"/"didn't need to do"

    Quote Originally Posted by David L. View Post
    Frankly, Riverkid, I was not referring to the process of mastering language as 'piddling pedantry", but this debate with you.
    I understood that difference, David.

    I wasn't debating you, I was discussing how these collocations are used in order to try to find some answers for Lenka. There clearly are nuances that have Lenka perplexed.

  9. #9
    Lenka is offline Senior Member
    Join Date
    May 2004
    Posts
    863
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: modal verbs: "needn't have done" vs. "didn't have to do"/"didn't need to do"

    Thank you both for your replies!

    I had a look into Longman English Grammar by L. G. Alexander and this is what I found out:

    (11.57.1) Lack of necessity: need't have,didn't have to,didn't need to
    These forms mean roughly the same in e.g.:
    I needn't have gone to the office yesterday.
    I didn't have to (or I didn't need to) go to the office yesterday. (have and need are stressed)
    (= I went there, but it was unnecessary)

    When have and need are unstressed,they mean something different from needn't have:
    I didn't have to/ didn't need to go to the office yesterday.
    (= I knew it was unnecessary and I didn't go)


    -----------------------

    This is what I found in the same book, in chapter 1.52:

    past lack of necessity:

    You needn't have gone there.
    (= you went there unnecessarily)

    You didn't need to go there.
    (= there was no necessity to go there, whether you did go or not)


    ------------------------

    Change the following sentences using modal verbs:

    a) Thank you for delivering the goods but it was not necessary. I was going to do it.
    => Thank you for delivering the goods but you needn't have done it.
    b) It was not necessary to check all data but I did it anyway.
    => I didn't have to do it. / I didn't need to do it. Are the sentences correct?

    Could one say Thank you for delivering the goods but you didn't have/need to do it. (for a)) and I needn't have done it. (for b))?
    That implies, at least in my opinion, that you could express the sentence a) (Thank you for delivering the goods but it was not necessary. I was going to do it. ) both with you needn't have done it and you didn't have/need to do it but you would have to stress the modal verbs "have to" and "need to", right?

    As to the sentence b) (It was not necessary to check all data but I did it anyway.), the correct "reformulation" of it should be I didn't have to do it. / I didn't need to do it. (have and need stressed).

    I suppose that the speaker knew in advance that it would not be necessary to go there, but he did it, anyway. That is why he said he hadn't have/need to do it.

    If he didn't know it was unnecessary and did go there (because he might have thought it was necessary, although it was not), he could have said "I needn't have gone there." (for the b) sentence).


    This is just my speculation. Am I right? Do you think it might work like this?
    Last edited by Lenka; 18-Nov-2007 at 22:13. Reason: typo

  10. #10
    RonBee's Avatar
    RonBee is offline Moderator
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Other
      • Native Language:
      • American English
      • Home Country:
      • United States
      • Current Location:
      • United States
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Posts
    16,571
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: modal verbs: "needn't have done" vs. "didn't have to do"/"didn't need to do"

    Quote Originally Posted by Lenka View Post
    Thank you both for your replies!

    I had a look into Longman English Grammar by L. G. Alexander and this is what I found out:

    (11.57.1) Lack of necessity: need't have,didn't have to,didn't need to
    These forms mean roughly the same in e.g.:
    I needn't have gone to the office yesterday.
    I didn't have to (or I didn't need to) go to the office yesterday. (have and need are stressed)
    (= I went there, but it was unnecessary)

    When have and need are unstressed,they mean something different from needn't have:
    I didn't have to/ didn't need to go to the office yesterday.
    (= I knew it was unnecessary and I didn't go)

    -----------------------

    This is what I found in the same book, in chapter 1.52:

    past lack of necessity:

    You needn't have gone there.
    (= you went there unnecessarily)

    You didn't need to go there.
    (= there was no necessity to go there, whether you did go or not)

    ------------------------


    That implies, at least in my opinion, that you could express the sentence a) (Thank you for delivering the goods but it was not necessary. I was going to do it. ) both with you needn't have done it and you didn't have/need to do it but you would have to stress the modal verbs "have to" and "need to", right?

    As to the sentence b) (It was not necessary to check all data but I did it anyway.), the correct "reformulation" of it should be I didn't have to do it. / I didn't need to do it. (have and need stressed).

    I suppose that the speaker knew in advance that it would not be necessary to go there, but he did it, anyway. That is why he said he hadn't have/need to do it.

    If he didn't know it was unnecessary and did go there (because he might have thought it was necessary, although it was not), he could have said "I needn't have gone there." (for the b) sentence).


    This is just my speculation. Am I right? Do you think it might work like this?
    I find your analysis excellent (overall). But say says instead of implies. (To imply something is to hint at something or suggest something.)


    ~R

Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast

Similar Threads

  1. Modal verbs and Modal auxiliary verbs
    By zoobinshid in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 2
    Last Post: 26-Sep-2005, 08:59
  2. Sensitive verbs?
    By Anonymous in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 10
    Last Post: 04-Jul-2004, 00:08
  3. modal verbs
    By Anonymous in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 22-Oct-2003, 04:28

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  
Hotchalk