I am wondering if it is correct to say:

He may need not to ...

or should we say

He may not need to ...

  • 4
    Context, please. What are you needing not to mean? – Armstrongest Nov 23 '15 at 22:19
  • just need not is fine... using to with it makes me think twice! – Maulik V Nov 25 '15 at 13:09
  • 1
    @MaulikV: He need not go is, as you say, fine; and means he doesn't have to go. But as need is functioning as a modal there, it cannot be combined with may. These examples involve the non-modal form of need (which behaves like want). – Colin Fine Nov 25 '15 at 13:54

They are both grammatical and reasonably idiomatic, and have very different meanings.

He may not need to go.

means "It is possible that he will not have to go".

He may need not to go.

(which is probably less common) means something like "It is possible that he will find that he must not go."

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