I'm not sure if I should analyze the modal verb need with the particle to or without it in this sentence: We need to clean our room.

  • No: "to" is part of the to-infinitival clause "to clean our room", which is complement of "need". Note that "need" is a not a modal auxiliary verb in your example, but a lexical verb. It is only a modal auxiliary when it has a bare infinitival clause as complement, as in "We needn't tell her."
    – BillJ
    Commented Mar 23, 2018 at 8:40

1 Answer 1


With the modal verbs must and can, there is no to: We must clean, We can clean. So I'd say the to belongs to the need.

Another way to analyze this is to make hypothetical sentences like these:

Clean the room if you must.

Clean the room if you can.

Clean the room if you need to.

  • If you have a hankering to, you can analyze "Clean the room if you need to" as an omission/deletion: "Clean the room if you need to [clean the room]".
    – TimR
    Commented Mar 24, 2018 at 9:46
  • That said, I'm not happy with the contemporary analysis of to.
    – TimR
    Commented Mar 24, 2018 at 10:30

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