What is the difference between the following sentences?

(1) You/I need to do it

(2) You/I would need to do it

Do we use the second one for distancing from reality and being more polite?

  • (2) could occur in backshift or express modal remoteness depending on context.
    – BillJ
    Nov 24, 2020 at 17:48
  • 1
    You need more context to be sure. In some contexts the would is required, in some it is just a linguistic flourish that can be excluded without loss, in some it is wrong usage. We need to know what prompted the statement to give advice.
    – jwpfox
    Nov 24, 2020 at 21:04

2 Answers 2


"I need to do it."

This usage expresses immediate necessity - similar to "must do it" but it shows less emphasis and obligation.

"I would need to do it."

In this example, the modal expresses a hypothetical situation such as a conditional:

"[If something happened,] I would need..."

or can imply the behavior of a person, or a different temporal view(time of utterance).

It doesn't necessarily mean the speaker wants to be polite, though it can in a different context.

  • Could you please clarify what you mean by "the behaviour of a person" or "a different temporal view"?
    – F.K
    Nov 30, 2020 at 3:56

Both the sentences are correct. The word would sounds less direct & more polite. Besides, would indicates a possibility, i.e., I'm not yet certain to do something : I would need to do it if you want. Here my decision depends on whether you want.

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