I was asked to fill the blank below preserving the meaning of the sentence.

It was not necessary for him to take any warm clothes, so he traveled light. He ____________ take any warm clothes with him, so he traveled light.

I wrote "He hadn't needed to" what was wrong as "He didn't need to" turned out to be correct.

I used the past perfect, as I imagined it like so: PAST: he traveled; EARLIER PAST: he hadn't needed

In similar topic I've found this:

You can 'know' something at any time. You can realize something long after becoming aware of it, as 'knowing' requires a conscious thought to realize it. You can only 'notice' something when you're present, there and then, to be able to notice it.

I guess there is a similar case with "need" and "travel"? If so, is there wider explanation how to move comfortably between those verbs like "know, need" and "notice, travel" in past tenses?
This is very confusing when your native language has one past tense.

2 Answers 2


"Hadn't needed to..." would have been correct grammar and the meaning (in this case) is roughly the same. But it isn't required. You aren't talking about a state (not needing warm clothes) that is complete at the time at the time he travelled. Indeed it seems more likely that he continued not to need warm clothes at that time. This makes "didn't need to" more likely

Moreover, the original used the past tense "wasn't necessary" (instead of "hadn't been necessary") so as a test question, there is nothing point you to use past perfect. And if there is no good reason to use past perfect, it is better to use the normal past tense.

There's no reason to use past perfect just because one event happens before another one, only to indicate that an event, or state, is complete at the time you are writing about.


"Need" is a stative verb not an active verb. In this case there is no duration, it is just not necessary to take warm clothes. Like you know something or you don't (meaning having knowledge of), which is different from "I have known him for years".

  • That's true. But I am not sure it is relevant to the question. Stative verbs do follow the usual rules as regards tenses. It is just that they do not have continuous forms such as "I am/was/will be needing a screwdriver" - though some people incorrectly do use those forms. But "I needed/ I didn't need/ I haven't needed/I hadn't needed/ I will need/ I may need warm clothes are all valid.
    – WS2
    Aug 31, 2022 at 21:49

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