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Infinitive without “to”

What is an infinitive without “to”?

He need not wait. or He needs not wait.

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This is the use of "need" as an auxiliary, like "ought" or "must". Auxiliaries are followed by the plain form of the verb without "to".

goofy May 21, 2009, 5:06pm

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...except for "ought". Other auxiliaries are "can", "will", "should", "would", "might".

goofy May 22, 2009, 8:22am

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we call them <strong>modal</strong> verbs.

mykhailo May 24, 2009, 8:51am

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"He needs not wait" does not seem right to me. I would say, "He does not need to wait."

nigel June 21, 2009, 6:47am

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Is it ok to say HE NEED NOT WAI(T as the word, need, serves as an auxiliary??

gkwu8888 January 5, 2011, 12:39am

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An infinitive without "to", also known as the bare infinitive, is used after modal auxiliary verbs (amongst others), for example:

"can do, will do, must do" etc

The verb "need" is a semi-modal, which means it can be used like a modal auxiliary verb or an ordinary verb:

"He need not wait." - modal with bare infinitive
"He doesn't need to wait." - normal verb with "to"-infinitive

The modal use "need" really only occurs in negatives an questions "Need I do it right now?", and normal verb use is probably becoming more common, and the modal use .

As far as I'm concerned "He needs not wait."is ungrammatical: it is neither modal nor normal verb use, but is trying to mix the two. At Oxford Online they say "he need not worry, not he needs not worry": (see Usage Note)

Warsaw Will June 15, 2014, 1:57pm

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