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Hello

1. I have to go home. (Someone told me to be home at, e.g. 10 p.m. and I HAVE TO GO, I have no choice)

2. I must go home. (I feel that I must go, because I want to, but no one told me to go home. It's my decision)

3. I need to go home. How about this one? When do I use NEED and how different is it from MUST?

THANKS
Comments  
Using the word 'need' means that it is necessary for some reason.
It does not indicate whether you feel that going home is necessary or whether someone else has made it necessary for you to go home.
YankeeUsing the word 'need' means that it is necessary for some reason.
It does not indicate whether you feel that going home is necessary or whether someone else has made it necessary for you to go home.
You wrote that "need" means necessary for some reason, and then that it doesn't indicate whether you feel that going home is necessary?

How about these ones:

1. In the summer you must pass your driving test. Does it mean that I feel you should, but it's not necessary?

2. In the summer you have to pass your driving test. You have to because you want to be a professional driver in the future, right?

3. In the summer you need to pass your driving test. Is it OK to say something like this, using "need"?

Thanks
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Hi Newguest

Because you made a distinction between must and have to in your original post, I only wanted to tell you that no such distinction exists with the word need. Possibly you yourself decided something was necessary, possibly someone else decided something was necessary, or possibly a particular situation has made something necessary.

1. The speaker could come across as overly harsh or imperious in this sentence. It would depend on tone of voice and context, I suppose. To me, it doesn't sound like a typical sentence for must at all. Must usually means that something is absolutely required, so your sentence might mean that 'it is absolutely imperative that you pass your test in the summer, otherwise there will be some bad consequences.' Must is often too strong to use with the word you unless (a) it is said by a person in authority -- a person who is entitled to tell you what you are required to do, or (b) it is said in a friendly tone of voice, with a smile, and the context is something like this, for example:
"You must visit us for a few days! Our new house at the beach is heavenly and we'd love to have you."

2. Your particular sentence sounds more typical with have to than with must. Maybe you could think of have to as a more "ordinary" or standard necessity. In your particular sentence, it seems to suggest that there is a deadline to be met, or some kind of rule or standard procedure to be followed. Maybe it's not possible to take a driving test at any time other than in the summer. Possibly the speaker is simply very enthusiastic about the idea of you having a license by sometime in the summer (for whatever reason).

3. Have to and need are often easily interchanged.
Must
is not as easily interchangeable with need, and the negated versions of these two verbs are not interchangeable at all (i.e. mustn't is NOT the same as don't need to/needn't).

I hope that helps.
Hi Yankee.

I asked this question to some other native speaker today, and she wrote:

A need is something you absolutely must do, such as, "I am feeling so ill that I need to go home.

I need to pass my driving test so that I can drive myself to work and school.

"Must" is a bit milder than need. I must dust the house before company arrives. I need to change the hallway light before someone falls in the dark.


You wrote that "must" means that something is absolutely required, and from what she wrote to me I conclude that it's not. I must dust the house before company arrives, but I don't have to/need to, I guess. I have a choice, it's not necessary.

While: I need to change the hallway light before someone falls in the dark, seems to be quite necessary. Looking at these two examples it seems to me that "need" is stronger than "must" and you wrote something different, I guess. Maybe it's all correct and we shouldn't try to prove whose answer is the right one?

Take care
I completely agree with Yankee that if you say "You must..." you are being imperious.

I don't make any differentiation in "I must change that lightbulb" and "I need to change that lightbulb." Your other native speaker sees a distinction that I don't see.
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To further muddy the waters, I find that "need" is starting to be used where it is not needed, so to speak, in AE. Teachers tell students, "I need you to stop making noise and sit down." Cashiers say, "I just need you to sign this for me." It's almost like it's losing its strength and becoming a kind of roundabout way to say "Please." "You need to..." is common, also. Someone giving directions might say, "You're gonna need to turn around and go back to the gas station and take a left..." Is this just a Southern thing?
NewguestHi Yankee.

I asked this question to some other native speaker today, and she wrote:

A need is something you absolutely must do, such as, "I am feeling so ill that I need to go home.

I need to pass my driving test so that I can drive myself to work and school.

"Must" is a bit milder than need. I must dust the house before company arrives. I need to change the hallway light before someone falls in the dark.


You wrote that "must" means that something is absolutely required, and from what she wrote to me I conclude that it's not. I must dust the house before company arrives, but I don't have to/need to, I guess. I have a choice, it's not necessary.

While: I need to change the hallway light before someone falls in the dark, seems to be quite necessary. Looking at these two examples it seems to me that "need" is stronger than "must" and you wrote something different, I guess. Maybe it's all correct and we shouldn't try to prove whose answer is the right one?

Take care
Hi Newguest
All of your third set of examples use the word "I". In my last post I specifically addressed the use of "you" and "must" because all of your second set of sentences used "you". There is very often a world of difference between saying "I must" and "You must". Saying "I must" doesn't have the same potential for sounding imperious. This is primarily because when you say "I must", you are requiring yourself rather than someone elseto do something. You are entitled to require something of yourself. Emotion: wink

I would also interpret must as referring to a strong requirement when it is used with the third person (or with "it") this way, for example:
"The report must be submitted by 5 p.m. tomorrow at the very latest."
There is no way that I would subsitute "should" for "must" in the sentence above. "Should" is simply not strong or absolute enough, and substituting "should" would change the meaning from an absolute requirement to a more flexible, "softer" requirement.

As to "who is right", I would just like to mention that the type of answer you get usually depends on what exactly you ask. My second response gave you an example of the same sort of usage that your other native speaker source was talking about:
"You must visit us."
That usage of must is more similar to "should". It seems, however, that your other source was mainly considering "I must" (and not "You must" or "It must"). Making "You must" mean something closer to "you should" is usually trickier. That's why I mentioned tone of voice and a smile, and gave further context.