I've found an interesting topic here: need-be-vs-needs-to-be. I also have new knowledge from my book (Grammar In Use by Hewings) that the usage [need + verb] is rather formal and used in formal written English than the usage of [need(s) + to + verb] that means we can use it as a modal verb and an ordinary verb.

Now my main question is about the order regarding the placement of the adverb ever. There's an example on my book that says:

'They need never find out.' (less formally They never needs to know).

Notice that need and never are switched in the second form. And I could agree on that. However, I need to know whether I can write like this:

Nobody need ever know about the money.

Rather than

Nobody ever need know about the money.

  • The first option, "need ever know," sounds better to me. I'm not sure, however, what you mean by "And I could agree on that."
    – cruthers
    Nov 12, 2021 at 3:19
  • @cruthers When I say "I could agree on that", that means that makes sense to me or at least I'm familiar with that construction.
    – user516076
    Nov 12, 2021 at 6:45

1 Answer 1


Need (like dare) is sometimes called a "semimodal" - it can pattern in some constructions like a modal, but can also be used as a full verb.

When it is modal, then adverbs usually follow it, as they do other modals:

You can always try.

They might even succeed.

Nobody need ever know.

When it is a full verb (followed by a to-infinitive) adverbs usually precede it:

You always want to have everything.

They sometimes happen to see him.

You never need to tell anybody.

These placements are not compulsory (the other order is sometimes possible) but they are the most common pattern.

Note, by the way, that in my (British) English, modal need is not particularly formal: They need never find out is perfectly possible in casual conversation.

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