-1

In Spanish, things cannot have needs. Only living creatures have needs. In English, instead, it’s very common for things to have needs, as in “This floor needs to be washed” to mean “This floor should be washed”.

Question: when you hear phrases like this, do you take it as a metaphor/allegory/stretch of language/figure of speech, something substituting the literal “should/ought to”, or as something literal (i.e., you take “to need” to be synonymous with “should/ought to”?

(By literal of course I don’t mean that inanimate objects have needs, literal would be that “need” is literally synonymous with “should/ought to”.)

Clarification: Nowadays some Spanish speakers in the USA use expressions literally translated from English saying that things have needs, but I deem that to be Spanglish.

10
  • "There is a necessity for someone to wash this floor." Commented Mar 17, 2023 at 9:19
  • What about it? I know that’s a possible equivalent.
    – user354948
    Commented Mar 17, 2023 at 12:08
  • I meant that an inanimate object doesn't literally have needs, as you say - the expression means that the necessity exists for something to happen. Commented Mar 17, 2023 at 13:18
  • @KateBunting Right, I understand that. My question was if it is taken to be literal or metaphorical. And by literal of course I don’t mean that inanimate objects have needs, literal would be that “need” is synonymous with “should/ought to”.
    – user354948
    Commented Mar 17, 2023 at 14:12
  • I agree with James that it isn't a metaphor either. Commented Mar 17, 2023 at 14:41

1 Answer 1

3

It is a common figure of speech, so we don't think much about it at all. If asked, I'd probably say that I understand "This floor needs to be washed" as being an alternative to "I need this floor washed" or "Someone needs..." It is slightly stronger than "This floor should be washed", and more tactful than "Wash this floor!"

Which is to say, that I understand the figure of speech. I don't analyse it as literal or metaphorical.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .