Word Choice: Need vs. Knead
  • 3-minute read
  • 4th October 2021

Word Choice: Need vs. Knead

The words “need” and “knead” sound identical, but they don’t mean the same thing. In this post, we explain how to use these words correctly in your writing.

Need (Require Something)

“Need” is most often a verb that means “require something because it is essential or very important.” For example, we could use it in any of the following:

A puppy needs a healthy diet and lots of exercise.

We need a house with at least four bedrooms.

His car needed new tires.

Sometimes, you can also use “need” as a modal verb (like would or could). When used in this way, it is usually followed by “not” to indicate the absence of necessity:

You need not decide immediately.

But you can also use it with “only” or “hardly” to imply a limited requirement for something, or in questions about necessity:

If she wants a drink, she need only ask.

Need I remind you how important this test will be?

As you can see from these examples, modal verbs are always used in the present tense, and they never have an “s” added in the third person singular. So you should never write “she needs only ask” or “he needs not remind us.”

In addition, “need” can be a noun that refers to something that is required:

This food will provide all your puppy’s nutritional needs.

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That house is big enough for our needs.

Or it can indicate the absence or insufficiency of something:

He was in need of a good mechanic.

I can lend you some money if you are in need.

In all of these cases, though, the word “need” always starts with an “n!”

Knead (Press Firmly and Repeatedly)

“Knead” is a verb most commonly used to describe the way dough is repeatedly pressed, stretched, and folded while making bread:

You should knead the dough for at least ten minutes.

I kneaded the mixture until my arms ached.

However, kneading is not just for the kitchen! “Knead” can refer to any repetitive action that mimics the way a baker manipulates dough. So a masseuse might knead someone’s muscles or a potter might knead a lump of clay. Whatever the context, though, this word is always spelled with a silent “k” at the start.

Summary: Need or Knead?

When you want to know which spelling to use, remember:

  • Need is most often a verb meaning “require,” but it can also be a noun meaning “something necessary” or “an absence or insufficiency.”
  • Knead is always a verb meaning “press firmly and repeatedly.”

It should be easy enough to tell these words apart since “knead” always refers to pressing something (usually pressing and stretching dough while baking). If you do struggle, though, remember the phrase “There is a knack to kneading dough,” as the silent “k” in “knack” should help you remember the spelling of “knead!”

In addition, if you would like some extra help to make sure your writing is free of spelling mistakes and other errors, our expert proofreaders are just a few clicks away. You can even have your first 500 words proofread for free.

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