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I thought that the two verbs "require" and "need" mean the same thing, while I saw these links: link 1 and link 2.

Now, I don't think these two verbs are always the same. (Though I have my doubts about it.)

I wonder if you could help me understand where I can/cannot use them as a substitute for the other one?

In order to inquire about it, I have provided some examples. Please let me know which word works in each case?

1) If you want to be a successful teacher you will ................ patience.

a. require
b. need

2) I'm thirsty. I ............... a glass of water.

a. require
b. need

3) I ............. to speak to you before his arrival.

a. require
b. need

4) They ........... the information to be sent as soon as possible.

a. required
b. needed

  • Often the two verbs are synonymous, but given just They need / require X with no further context, I'd say one likely difference is that if they require something, they usually know this (often with the implication that they are forcefully demanding that X be provided by some underling or supplier). But with need it might be that even if X is in fact necessary in their specific circumstances, they don't (yet) realise this. – FumbleFingers Jul 4 at 13:06
  • ...thus to some extent we could distinguish I need a glass of water as a "statement of fact" (it's essential that I have water), from I require a glass of water as a "peremptory demand" (you must give me water). – FumbleFingers Jul 4 at 13:10
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    "They require the information to be sent as soon as possible." is not idiomatic. Is this teaching book written by a native speaker? It should be: They needed the information sent as soon as possible. not: to be sent. Generally speaking, people need things and situations require them. – Lambie Jul 4 at 13:21
  • Sometimes people say 'need' when they actually mean 'want' – Smock Jul 4 at 16:09
  • Thank you all, but still it is a little vague for me! Based on what you put here, I can use both. But what difference each verb can make in each case (aside from the example #2 which @FumbleFingers explained it well.) – A-friend Jul 8 at 12:06
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There is a difference, and they are not always interchangeable.

In the most basic context, either are ok:

  • I require a screwdriver.
  • I need a screwdriver.

The difference is that "require" is far more "matter of fact" than "need", which is used where there is a more human, emotional context.

For example:

I need some company.

This suggests you have an emotional need, and "require" would sound far too robotic in this context.


Your examples:

If you want to be a successful teacher you will need patience.

Either would probably work here, but I prefer "need". A "requirement" tends to refer to something that needs fulfilling once, otherwise one normally specifies that it is a regular requirement. A "need" seems more suited for something constant, or ongoing. I found the word "will" unnecessary in this context as it seems to be an immediate need.

I'm thirsty. I need a glass of water.

Again, either could work - "require" just sounds too robotic. Even though food and drink are daily "requirements", the fact that you talk about being "thirsty" which is a feeling makes "need" seem more suitable.

I need to speak to you before his arrival.

"Require" doesn't interchange in this context. We don't say "require to..." - we would say "I have a requirement to..." In a formal setting, you could perhaps say "I require a word with you before his arrival".

They require the information to be sent as soon as possible.

Either would work - and perhaps "need" would be most people's choice as it is common, informal speech. As an example of where "require" does work though, this is a good one because somebody else's requirement is being passed on second hand, which is very distant and emotionless.

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To put it simply.

Require is when someone or a situation needs something that is mandatory to have. Something that it can't do without. A must-have quality or maybe a very important piece of information.

Need is more simple. You just need something, plain and simple. You don't care about the quality of what you need. You just need it.

Just a quick note: You will hardly see require being used by native speakers in a day-to-day conversation as in "I require to speak to you". Require is more commonly used by companies, hiring managers, situations, jobs and etc...

  • 2
    The reason native speakers don't say "I require to speak to you" is mainly because the syntax of need and require are different (the latter generally requires an actual noun as its "object", not a verb-based clause). Note the shift of emphasis between I am required to attend the meeting (almost certainly at the behest of someone else) and I need to attend the meeting (feasibly, for my own benefit, despite not having been asked / ordered to attend). – FumbleFingers Jul 4 at 13:17
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Require is a chosen restriction or policy imposed with thought and some element of fore-planning. It can be changed if desired to do so. There is little grey area to this term. A need is by nature, simplistic, and not optional.

  • Could you address OP's examples? How could you apply your response to OP's sentences? You can cite dictionaries to support your answer. See the Contributor's Guide for more tips. – Em. Aug 17 at 23:03

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