In an answer to the post 要 to indicate "will [verb]" vs "need", it is argued that

要;yào;want to, need to, going to

is actually the short form of either

需要;xūyào;to need, to want


将要;jiāngyào;going to.

However, in another answer it is said:

We cannot use 要 in place of 需要 here:

Why does mankind need oxygen to be able to survive?

Question: When can we use 要 to replace 需要? Is there a difference between 需要 and 要 in the sense of need to / want to?


要;yào;want, want to (想要), need to (須要), going to (將要).


We can use 要 instead of 須要 when we want to express need to + verb. However, we might not always want to replace 需要 with 要, because the meaning of 需要 is clearer: it always means 'need', while the meaning of 要 might cause confusion, as it can mean 'want to, need to or going to'.

On the other side, we shouldn't use 要 in place of 需要 when we want to express need + noun, such as in:

为什么人类需要氧气才能生存? Why does mankind need oxygen to be able to survive?

氧气 is a noun; '需要氧气' (need oxygen) cannot be changed to 須要氧气 (need to oxygen), 想要氧气 (want to oxygen) or 將要氧气 (going to oxygen).

If the sentence was '須要有氧气' (need to have oxygen), then it can be changed to 要有氧气 because 有 is a verb.

  • That's a fair point! But I'd say the opposite, that is in the original sentence 需要 should be 須要, and that only 需要 can be shorted to 要. Do you have any source to clarify this nuance? – Firmin Martin Jul 27 '20 at 13:00
  • I know that this is a very tricky question, but is there an authoritative source to support [1] "需要 always followed by a noun" and [2] "須要 always followed by a verb phrase"? For instance, if you check the entry 【须要】in 《现代汉语词典》第7版, you obtain 教育儿童須要耐心 which contradicts [2]. – Firmin Martin Jul 27 '20 at 13:47
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    有 is implied in "教育儿童須要(有)耐心" – Tang Ho Jul 27 '20 at 13:52
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    @Puco4 you meant 'we can use either 需要 or 要'? Yes, As long as it is followed by a noun: Example 我需要錢 can be reducted to 我要錢 because 錢 is a noun. But, I prefer the more specific 需要 than just 要 to avoid confusion; Similarly, 須要用錢 can be reducted to 要用錢. – Tang Ho Jul 27 '20 at 14:00

In Taiwan, according to dictionary owned by Ministry of Education.

can mean:




(Expected to happen in short time.)

  • The example given is [ 需要。如:「我要一枝筆。」 (I need s pen) ] -- a pan is a noun. – Tang Ho Jul 27 '20 at 13:36

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