I have a question regarding the use of need as a modal and need to. Here’s my issue: we have to summarise each character of Charlie and the chocolate factory the same way as Roald Dahl (the author) which really mocking sometimes even rude so TRIGGER WARNING body shaming. Here is the sentence I’m having an issue with:

He is as fat as a pig he ought to go on a diet or at least that what his mother need tell him, right?

Is it grammatically correct or shall I say that’s what his mother needs to tell him. Thank you for your replies

  • Your sentence has some other issues. You can't run "he is as fat as a pig" and "he ought to go on a diet" together without some kind of conjunction, like and, because those are each complete sentences.
    – stangdon
    Commented May 30, 2022 at 19:10
  • Thank for your reply! So I should either use a full stop or a conjunction like : he is a fat as a pig so he ought to go on a diet. Thanks Commented May 30, 2022 at 19:18
  • @stangdon - wouldn't a semicolon do? Commented May 30, 2022 at 21:07
  • @MichaelHarvey Yes, that's true - a semicolon would work too, since they're independent clauses.
    – stangdon
    Commented May 30, 2022 at 22:44

1 Answer 1


The proper expression (in modern English) is "needs to tell him"'

"Need" is at most a "semi-modal" verb. In negative forms you might say "His mother needn't tell him to diet". But in affirmative it is usually a main verb with an infinitive complement "She needs to tell him...". There are some idioms and formal expressions in which "need" is modal, but these are almost always used with a negative word "Nobody need tell him ..."

There are other faults with you sentence. It runs on. The first sentence ends with the word "pig" That should be followed by a full stop and an capital letter. The tone is spoken (with the question "right?" at the end) You should remove the word "right?" if this written work.

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