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  1. #1
    ambitious-girl's Avatar
    ambitious-girl is offline Senior Member
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    The modal verb need has no past tense

    Is this bold sentence correct?
    In a grammar book, Oxford Practice Grammar, the statement "We use needed to for past time: They needed to clean everything." contradict the bold sentence below. Now then which one is correct?

    "The modal verb need has no past tense,
    but it can be used in the pattern need not have/needn’t have followed by a past participle, to show that although someone did something, it was not necessary:You needn’t have waited for me."

    Source: http://www.macmillandictionary.com/d...british/need_1

  2. #2
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    Re: The modal verb need has no past tense

    If they're suggesting that "You needn't have waited for me" is the only way to make a negative simple past form of the negative present tense "You don't need to wait for me", then they're wrong in BrE. We say "You didn't need to wait for me".

    "Need" isn't a true modal in that sometimes it functions as a modal and sometimes as a non-modal.
    Remember - if you don't use correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing, anything you write will be incorrect.

  3. #3
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    Lynxear is offline Senior Member
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    Re: The modal verb need has no past tense

    Your question is a bit confusing.

    I don't think you are questioning the content of any sentence, are you? It is just the part that is bolded that concerns you.

    The modal verb need has no past tense.

    We have just isolated the independent clause. Now we will treat it as a single sentence. You want to know if this is grammatically correct. If that is what you mean, the answer is yes. This bolded independent clause is correct.

    I don't know what the original sentence in the grammar book looked like. Perhaps "need" was in a bold or italic font. Perhaps it was just in quotation marks as I showed in the previous sentence. If they did neither of those things to emphasize "need", it does not really matter. "Need" in this sentence is being used as a noun representing the word. "Modal verb" in this case is a phrasal adjective used to describe the noun "need".
    Last edited by Lynxear; 25-Jul-2017 at 22:40.
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  4. #4
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    Re: The modal verb need has no past tense

    Thanks teachers. Sorry for making you confused.
    Let me explain what I meant clearly:

    In the Macmillan Dictionary, we have the following definition about verb ''need'':
    The modal verb need has no past tense.

    And, in my grammar book, we have the following definition about verb "need":
    "Needed" is the past form of verb "need".


    Now, I want to know if verb "need" has past tense or not.
    Last edited by ambitious-girl; 26-Jul-2017 at 06:06.

  5. #5
    kadioguy is offline Key Member
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    Re: The modal verb need has no past tense

    As a foreign English learner, now I know what you meant.

    The word 'need' can be used as 'verb' and 'modal verb'.
    When it is used as 'verb', it has past simple and past paticiple, i.e. 'needed'.
    However, when it is used as 'modal verb', it has no past tense.

    See
    http://www.oxfordlearnersdictionarie.../need_1?q=need
    http://www.oxfordlearnersdictionarie...english/need_2
    I am not a teacher.

  6. #6
    Lynxear's Avatar
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    Re: The modal verb need has no past tense

    I am going to take another crack at your question now that I understand what you want.

    I will preface this by saying that many English teachers (myself included) don't like constantly teaching grammar. Teaching listening/speaking English is a lot more fun. The reason we don't like teaching grammar is that we are constantly barraged with requests to understand the rules of English grammar. Truth be known there are relatively few hard and fast rules in English. Those that exist have so many exceptions that it can drive you crazy sometimes.

    So I will discuss "need" here in a way I think it is easy to understand. Piscean, RobertJ, emsr2d2 and others may object to the way I do this, but it works for me and I found it works for most students I have taught.

    "Need" can be used as a normal verb, a modal verb or a noun. I have seen it called a "semi-modal verb" when it is used with a preposition (find this term confusing myself )

    As a modal verb "need" can be used as an auxiliary verb (helping verb) to show something is possible, has the ability, obligation, etc.

    I think the modal form is used more in BE than AE nowadays. In North America we find the use of the modal form of "need" to be old fashioned, stiff or trying to be posh (to use a British description). You can usually use an alternative modal to replace "need" without changing the meaning and this is what we do on this side of the pond.

    You needn't take off your coat. It is quite chilly here.

    You shouldn't take off your coat. It is quite chilly here.

    Need I discuss his problems?

    Must I discuss his problems?

    She needn't pay for lunch. I would have paid if she let me.

    She shouldn't pay for lunch. I would have paid if she let me.

    Now we come to the more difficult part... the past tense sentence. The books talk about "need to" as if it was a modal or semi modal. I do not think of it as such. I think of it as the verb "need + infinitive". As such we can use the past, present or future tense this way.

    "I will need to file my taxes soon or I will penalized by the IRA."

    "He needed to get that document signed before coming here."

    "She needs to find a boyfriend. I feel sorry for her."

    I hope that helps you.
    Last edited by Lynxear; 26-Jul-2017 at 23:24.
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  7. #7
    Tdol is online now Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Re: The modal verb need has no past tense

    Quote Originally Posted by Lynxear View Post
    The books talk about "need to" as if it was a modal or semi modal. I do not think of it as such.
    It isn't. A simple test to see whether it's modal in nature it to make it negative. You needn't to pay doesn't work.

  8. #8
    Lynxear's Avatar
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    Re: The modal verb need has no past tense

    Thanks for that simple test.

    Question
    : How do you do the "strikethrough" as you do here "You needn't to pay" I cannot even copy and postit? There doesn't seem to be an option to do this function.
    Experience is recognizing a mistake the second time you make it.
    You don't go to an Englishman when you want good pierogi.

    - Wisdom from my father

  9. #9
    Rover_KE is offline Moderator
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    Re: The modal verb need has no past tense

    Click 'Go Advanced' to find the ABC feature.

  10. #10
    Tdol is online now Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Re: The modal verb need has no past tense

    If you want to type strikethrough, use the following code (bulletin boards use a different code from webpages):

    [strike]text you want strikethrough[/strike]

    I have added some hidden code to display the strike commands.

    It will produce the following result:

    text you want strikethrough
    Last edited by Rover_KE; 28-Jul-2017 at 12:07. Reason: Fixing typo

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