Dare and Need

'Dare' and 'need' have characteristics of both modal verbs and main verbs. Because of this, they are called semi-modals. In this lesson, we'll learn about them.

"Dare and Need" in English Grammar

Dare and Need

In this lesson, we will study two semi-modal verbs: 'dare' and 'need.' Dare and need are called semi-modals because they have some characteristics of modal verbs and some characteristics of main verbs. As a result, they might be similar in some aspects and different in some other aspects.


Dare is both a main verb and a semi-modal verb. A semi-modal is a verb that functions like a modal verb when they appear in negative sentences or questions.

Dare as Main Verb

Dare as a main verb means 'to challenge somebody to do something dangerous, difficult or embarrassing so that they can show that they are brave.' With this meaning, it is a main verb and takes an object. Verbs that follows it are in the to-infinitive form.

Take it! I dare you.

No one dared him to do that prank.

Here, no one challenged him to do that prank.

Dare as a main verb can also mean 'to be brave enough to do something'. In this sense, it can be used as an ordinary main verb which can be followed by a to-infinitive.

I didn't dare to say that to her face.

She didn't dare to go home late.

Dare as Semi-modal

Dare as a semi-modal verb is used especially in present tense and negative forms, and the verbs after it must be in bare form (infinitive without to).

Don't you dare tell that joke to Mr. Alvarez.

As you know, 'dare' must be followed by an infinitive without to (tell).

No one dare go there.

Dare: Negation

Since 'dare' is a semi-modal, many would think that to make the negative form you are supposed to add 'not' to the semi-modal verb, but in fact, you negate them exactly in the same way you negate dare as a main verb. and the most common way is to add (didn't, don't, doesn't) before 'dare.'

Don't you dare talk to me like that!

Sam didn't dare wrestle with the big guy.

Carol doesn't dare swim in the sea.

My sister doesn't dare to tell the truth.

How dare you!

You cannot use to-infinitive after semi-modal dare in the expression 'How dare you.'

How dare you say that to me! (NOT How dare you to say that to me!)


'Need' is another verb in English which can be both a main verb and a semi-modal verb.

using 'dare' to talk about challenge

Need as Main Verb

'Need' as a main verb has two meanings:

  • to require something and think something is important to have.
  • to have to or to be obliged to do something.

When 'need' is used as a main verb, we form questions and negations with the auxiliary verb 'do/does/did'. As a main verb, 'need' has to have an object or a to-infinitive.

Do you need any help?

I needed to study for the exam.

Do I need to show my ID?

Need as Semi-modal

We use 'need' as a semi-modal both in negative and affirmative sentences.

  • In negative sentences: We use semi-modal 'need' to indicate that there is no obligation or necessity to do something. Semi-modal 'need' is used mostly in negative sentences.

You needn’t worry. The flood is under control.

  • In affirmative sentences: We can also use 'need' in an affirmative form, but in this case the sentence includes a term which implies a negative meaning such as (nobody, no one, nothing, etc.)

No one need know about their love affair.

This use of semi-modal 'need' is rare in spoken English.

Need: Negation

To make a negative sentence, ‘not’ or the contracted form ‘n't’ is added directly to the term need.

We needn't study hard, the exam is easy.

They needn't do the work.

Need: Question form

To make a question by semi-modal need, we simply place need at the beginning of the sentence. Do not use (do, does, did).

Need I stay?

NOT do I need stay?

Need we listen to him?


The verb after need is the base form of the verb (infinitive without to).

You needn't wait.

NOT you needn't to wait.

She needn't to tell me anything.

Past Form of Need

Semi-modal need has no past simple form, instead we can use the past form of ‘main verb need’ or the past form of ‘have to’ as the alternatives to show there is no obligation to do something.

I didn’t need to study to make money.

Remember, we use a to-infinitive after main verb need.

She didn’t have to call him again, he had received her voice mail.

We use needn’t have + past participle to talk about things that happened in the past, but it was unnecessary.

He needn’t have worked as a waiter; his father was too rich.

I needn't have explained anything to you.


Need as a semi-modal is the same for all persons. Do not say needs.

Common Mistakes with Need

We cannot use semi-modal need with:

You don’t need a man. (NOT you needn’t a man.)

She doesn't need any help.

  • to-infinitives;

I do not need to drink coffee to stay awake. (NOT I needn’t to drink to stay awake.)

I don't need to explain anything to you.

My hair does not need cutting for three weeks. (NOT my hair needn’t cutting for three weeks.)

Her car does not need fixing.


'Need' and 'dare' both are verbs that can be semi-modal or main verbs. Although the semi-modals form can have the same meaning as the main form, they follow different rules.

Need as a semi modal verb means:

  • to be necessary to do something.

Need as a main verb means:

  • to have an obligation to do something
  • to require something
semi-modal main
need I need time. I need tissue to clean the table./ They need to stop this behavior.

Dare as a semi-modal verb means:

  • To be brave enough to do something.

Dare as a main verb means:

  • to challenge somebody to do something brave.
  • to be brave to do something.
semi-modal main
dare I didn't dare sleep in the jungle. How could you dare to threaten him?


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