「need」の使い方, part 3

I've got to be honest with you all. Sometimes we do use "need" with an object as the subject:
  1. That device needs a new battery.
  2. = The battery in that device needs replacing.
  3. = I (or someone else) need(s) to replace the battery in that device.
  4. = The battery in that device needs to be replaced.
This is where it gets a bit tricky, which is why I recommended that you use pattern 3 rather than the other two. I want to give you a safe pattern that you can use with less fear of making mistakes. You need reliable patterns so that you can speak with confidence. If you use pattern 3, you are less likely to make a strange sentence. Please use that one!
  • reliable【形】 信頼[信用]できる、信頼性のある、頼り[当て]になる[できる]、頼りがいのある (definition from Eijiro on the Web)
Pattern 4 is also a good choice. Notice that the passive is used in the infinitive, not with "need".
× The battery in that device is needed to replace.
One more passive way to say it is:
  • Replacement of the battery in that device is needed. <- and="" formal="" i="" it...="" li="" never="" say="" sounds="" this="" would="">
I saw these flowers growing in a planter outside my building the other day. I think Tokyo needs more flowers like this. In other words, flowers like these are needed by people living in Tokyo. Such flowers need to be planted everywhere!

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「need」の使い方, part 2

I was writing about "need" the other day. There are other ways to use "need". For example:
  1. This cutting needs potting. 
  2. = This cutting needs to be put into a pot.
  3. = I need to put this cutting into a pot.
The pattern is:
  • [noun] needs [verb+ing]
To be honest, I never use this pattern. It feels like something one of my grandmothers used to say. I'm more likely to use one of the other two patterns. Still, you should know about this pattern.

You couldn't use this pattern to say the sentence from the other day, though:
× Living in Tokyo doesn't need driving a car.
Getting back to my photo, the problem was that one stalk of our lucky bamboo was withering.
  • wither【自動】〔植物が〕しぼむ、しおれる、枯れる (definition from Eijiro on the Web)
The top was still green, though. I thought it needed trimming, so I cut it off and trimmed the withered part off of the stalk, too. I put the cutting in a cup of water with fertilizer, but today I should probably put it in some soil. I need to do it soon so that it has the best chance for survival.

If your English needs improving, please let me know!



I was talking about getting around in Tokyo with someone the other day. That person told me:
× Living in Tokyo doesn't need a car.
○ Living in Tokyo doesn't require a car.
 You don't need a car if you live in Tokyo.
If you check the dictionary, it says "need" means "require". I was thinking about why this seems unnatural to me. I'd say that to safely use "need", the subject should be a person, but that is not always the case. These are natural, though:
  • I need a bit more sleep.
  • Some of you need to speak English more often.
For matters and things, I'd suggest that you use "require".
  • [matter] requires...
  • Living in Tokyo doesn't require a car (of people who do so).
The picture above is some pressed tofu that I prepared in order to make five-spice tofu.
△ The recipe I have needs tofu that has had the water removed.
○ The recipe I have requires tofu that has had the water removed.
This tofu has that shape because I used a bowl filled with water to press it. The bowl wasn't as big as the tofu, so the edges didn't get pressed well. It's funny-looking, I thought.

If you need to improve your English, or if your work requires better English skills, I hope you will contact us about joining one of our classes!


「If you were to ask...」の使い方

If you were to ask me what I was doing at 5 pm today, I would tell you that I was cooking. This is a dish called "Buddha's delight", and in Chinese you pronounce it like this:
  • Buddha's delight = luóhàn zhāi; a more English-like spelling could be "loo-oh-HAN-jai"
If you asked me for the Chinese characters, I'd give you these (both the traditional Chinese version and the simplified one used in mainland China):
  • 羅漢齋; 罗汉斋 (Buddha's delight = luóhàn zhāi)
The pattern I'm using is one that somebody asked me about the other day.
  • If you asked... = If you were to ask...
The meaning is to lightly offer some information. Sometimes (not always) there is a nuance that the presented information may be an interpretation of a situation rather than the complete truth or an uncontroversial description.

The difference between the two versions is this:
  • If you asked... (casual)
  • If you were to ask... (a bit more formal)
It's also possible to change the subject of the "if" clause.
  • If a stranger were to ask me where I was from, I might say "Mars".
If you asked me what was in the dish, I'd tell you that it's dried yuba, daylily flowers, shallots, garlic, ginger, green onions, mushrooms, vegetarian oyster sauce, sweet thick soy sauce, soy sauce, and black pepper.
  • daylily【名】《植物》萱草◆ユリ科
  • shallot【名】《植物》エシャロット(eschalot)
  • (definitions from Eijiro on the Web)
If you were to ask me to try it, I'd say "invite me over and I'll try to cook it for you!"