Oh, friends, I had this interesting discussion with one teacher just now, and all I want to know is, who's right?

MP, today at 18:00 you're welcome. I work in Cambridge assessment as well, so if you need some help with your exam preparation, I'l be happy to help you

AL, today at 18:07 I won't be needing that.

MP, today at 19:23 I don't need, there's no Continuous in modal verbs 😉

AL, today at 19:25 Who says?

MP, today at 19:26 Cambridge grammar and common sense

AL, today at 19:26 I was expressing a continuous action with a seed of personal everlasting certainty.

AL, today at 19:29 Well, you might be grammatically correct about it, yet, English is not all about grammar only, like in Russian there's a certain way of expressing yourself by only breaking certain prescriptive rules. I guess you know that already. You can't but agree because even Cambridge, Oxford and any other agree with that.

MP, today at 19:30 I agree with that, but why do you deliberately choose to sound like poorly educated person?

AL, today at 20:13 Who said it sounds like a poorly educated person?

AL, today at 20:20 I am well sure you disagree with yourself on this matter although you insist that this is bad Grammar, in your opinion, it actually is not in fact. I would recommend you take a look at some advanced explanations concerning the continuous tense, verbs of opinion, preference and necessity, and the conjunction of the "BE+VERB+ING".

MP, today at 20:34 of course you are absolutely right! I've just lived in UK for 35 years and completed CELTA, TESOL and MA in language teaching. And Cambridge grammar is wrong as well [Photo] https://vk.com/photo474946374_456239079

MP, today at 20:47 this is bad grammar that's used only by teenagers who are trying to be cool and poorly educated people who don't use "s" after he/she/it in Present Simple. they just say "He work" instead of "he works" the question remains, why do you want to sound like them? There're a lot of mistakes that native speakers make, but it doesn't mean you have to copy

AL, today at 21:02 Sorry, but you're trying to compare absolutely different things. Saying "He work" is definitely bad grammar, that's basic subject-verb agreement. What I was talking about is a very different part of grammar. You mean to say that sentences like "Don't put away that screwdriver, I'll be needing it soon" or "She's thinking about him now that's why she's crying", or even "I'm wanting a beer right now" are absolutely incorrect while most people speak like that and use it in both formal and informal English. Not everything grammar tells us should be accepted entirely.

  • 5
    Your use of the future continuous is idiomatic. For example, Yes, you can borrow my car to go to the store, but I'll be needing it back soon. Don't be long. But I think you could have asked this question more succinctly. You'll be having it closed on you.
    – TimR
    Commented Aug 30, 2018 at 18:37
  • 1
    I've trimmed down the conversation significantly - I think it should be trimmed even further. You should summarize the argument when you have some time instead of making everyone read through the conversation.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Aug 30, 2018 at 19:29
  • I don't think this is that awkward or that rare a usage. It certainly is a bit elevated from common English, though. I've used such constructs myself. "I don't anticipate needing that" might be a better way to phrase it, but the meaning is somewhat different (probably closer to what is intended though). Commented Aug 30, 2018 at 19:29
  • M-W uses "No, I won't be needing that." as an example here btw: merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/… There are plenty more examples of perfectly valid idiomatic usage.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Aug 30, 2018 at 19:33
  • You need to find another teacher.
    – Sydney
    Commented May 9, 2019 at 10:20

4 Answers 4


Both "I won't be needing that" and "I don't need that" are grammatical.

The problem with your teacher's logic is that "need" is not a modal in either of those. Two easy-to-detect signs of modality are:

  • They have the syntactic properties associated with auxiliary verbs in English, principally that they can undergo subject–auxiliary inversion (in questions, for example) and can be negated by the appending of not after the verb.
  • They do not inflect (in the modern language) except insofar as some of them come in present–past (present–preterite) pairs. They do not add the ending -(e)s in the third-person singular (the present-tense modals therefore follow the preterite-present paradigm).

For the first point I listed, it should be pretty obvious that not does not follow need in "I don't need". For the second point, since people say "he needs...", we know it's not modal in this sense either.

"Need" specifically is a semi-modal. Your sentence needs modification were it to use need as a modal:

I need not have help.

According to the statistics here, the modal form of need is not used very often in American English (which is why I think it sounds old fashioned). A COCA search for BE needing (capitalizing "be" means it matches all forms of the verb, such as be, were, 're, etc.) returns 356 results, so I think it's safe to say that educated speakers do use "will not be needing" and similar (I would).


There certainly can be "modal + continuous infinitive"

I won't be singing at the club tonight

I must be talking to angel.

John might be sleeping so don't go upstairs.

Notice in the first case "I won't sing" would express a promise or determination (I won't sing, not even for a million dollars!), whereas "I won't be singing" is just describing a future state. "I must talk to an angel" would refer to a future time, whereas "I must be talking" is about a current state. So using the continuous

Your example of "won't be needing" is common for spoken English, but less so in written. Google does offer some examples:

And what of the senior who learns on the day before commencement that he won't be needing his cap and gown, ...

But in general "I won't need ..." can express the same fact, and would be preferred in written English.


Need isn't a modal auxiliary in either of your examples (I don't need that; I won't be needing that), but rather a lexical verb, just like, say, play. It is true that "there's no Continuous in modal verbs" (i.e., as I understood it, modal auxiliaries don't have any secondary inflectional forms, such as the gerund-participle, and therefore don't occur in constructions where they'd be required – note the ungrammaticalness of *We're canning to do so), but that doesn't apply to need in the mentioned examples.

If need were strictly a modal auxiliary, both of the mentioned sentences would be ungrammatical as need would lack the plain form (I don't need would be ungrammatical) as well as the gerund-participle (the second example). But, as evidenced by numerous instances of need being used as a lexical verb, need isn't a pure modal auxiliary.

However, even as a lexical verb, need isn't commonly used in constructions where its gerund-participle form is required. Other verbs, such as for example, mean, or want follow the same pattern. For instance, LDOCE instructs learners simply and clearly (and wrongly) that "Need is not used in the progressive". Nevertheless, there are exceptions, and your example is one such exception. See this regarding the construction will be needing / meaning / wanting.


Foreign-language teachers of English often make this mistake. The present continuous is incompatible with verbs such as need and love in their standard meanings and "therefore" forms such as needing and loving are impossible. Native speakers of English are creative, however, and create secondary idiomatic meanings for these -ing forms. I'm loving it! is the slogan of a popular burger franchise - the sense of love here has shifted to a meaning that has become more prevalent in the last half century or so. will be needing is similarly an idiomatic combination with specific connotations.

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