The Encyclopedia
of Differences

Difference Between ‘Need’ And ‘Want’

Table of Contents

‘Need’ and ‘want’ are two such words that can put you in a dilemma. The English language is a bit tricky. You may get confused about which word to use, where, and how.

In your day-to-day conversations, you may be confused regarding the usage of need and want, and you might also get cautious while using these terms. In this article, we will explain to you the proper usage of both these terms. 

So, what is the difference between need and want? When you use need in a sentence, you are talking about someone or something that you can’t live without. It can be a basic necessity in your life or something very important to you. When you ‘want’, you are expressing your desire for something.

Read on to find out more about the words ‘need’ and ‘want’ and how to use them.

What is ‘Need’?

‘Need’ is used in a sentence when you want to talk about something very important and unavoidable in life. When you say you ‘need something’, it means you can’t live or manage a situation without that ‘something’. 

For instance, ‘We need food and water to live’

In the above sentence, ‘need’ makes it absolutely clear that without food and water, we won’t be able to live.

Sometimes, ‘need’ is also used as a replacement for ‘have to’, that is when you have to do something.

  • ‘I need to go to the library’
  • ‘She needs to learn how to talk respectfully’

In both the above examples, using ‘need’ expresses that the subjects ‘have to’ do certain tasks. 

What is ‘Want’? 

‘Want’ is usually used in a sentence when you want to express your desire. When you say you ‘want’ something, you are wishing for that particular thing. 

For instance,  ‘I want that beautiful dress’. 

In the above sentence, the speaker wishes for a particular beautiful dress. However, the speaker can very well live without it. The dress is not a necessity in this context.  

Differences Between Need and Want 

‘Need and ‘want’ are almost synonyms so it is quite difficult to decide which to use where. You can use both words when you demand something but there are differences between the two.   


‘Need’ is used when you want to demand something unavoidable, important or urgent. It is absolutely necessary to you and cannot be ignored in a certain context. 

For instance:

  • ‘I need the report by midnight’
  • ‘Humans need a roof over their heads’

In both, the sentences, ‘need’ depicts the importance the subjects have for the objects. You are demanding something and it is very important.

‘Want’ is used to express your desires and your wishes. You can very well be without the particular object in the said context but you wish for it.

For instance:

  • ‘I want some chocolate’
  • ‘Shreya wants pizza’

In both the above examples, the subjects want something but it is just a desire. The subjects can survive the context even without the said objects. 

Regarding People

‘Want’ is also used when a person is needed by somebody. 

  • ‘You are wanted in the meeting’ 
  • ‘He is wanted by the police’

In both the example, the person is needed by the other party.

  • ‘Need’ is used to express when a person or a group of people necessarily needs a person or a group of people.
  • ‘The company needs her’

In the above case, it is clear that the company cannot survive without ‘her’.

Comparison Chart: Want Vs Need

Word Want Need 
Demands When you use want to demand something, you are expressing your desire or your wish for it.When you need something, your demand is very important and cannot be overlooked.
‘Have to’ ‘Want’ is also used when you have a desire to do something that might not be absolutely necessary.‘Need’ is used when you have to do something or when you have to go somewhere. 
Regarding peopleWhen you say ‘he is wanted by them’. It means that they are demanding for him. when someone is ‘wanted by the police’, it means the person could be a suspected criminal and the police want to arrest him.When you say ‘they need her’, it means that they cannot survive without her and need her to complete certain tasks.

Similitudes Between Need and Want 

Both ‘need’ and ‘want’ are used to convey our demands. Our demands can vary, they can be necessary or optional and the words ‘need’ and ‘want’ can be used accordingly. 

‘Need’ is used to convey your demand for something necessary and ‘want’ is used to convey your desires. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Difference Between Need and Want With Examples

‘Need’ is used when you want to demand something that is absolutely necessary or something very urgent.

‘I need my medication’
‘I need the papers immediately’ 

In both the above examples, the subjects cannot survive the particular context without the objects.

‘Want’ is used when you want to ask for something that is a desire or a wish. The speaker can use want to place a demand the listener might have to fulfill.

‘I want some cake’
‘I want the entire document to be completed in an hour’

Do I Say ‘Need to’ or ‘Want To’?

When you say you need to do something, it is a task you cannot overlook. You have to do a particular task to survive the context. 

‘I need to go to the hospital’
‘I need to go get my books back’

When you want to do something, you are usually saying it express your desire to do something. It could be a task that you can overlook.

‘I want to go shopping’
‘I want to talk to her’


The usage of the words ‘need’ and ‘want’ can be confusing and the next time you are left wondering what word to choose, remember that need is used to express something you absolutely cannot live without and want is used to express something you desire. 

With proper practice and guidance, one can master the trickiness of the English language. 


Feel free to comment and discuss about the article in the comment space below if you have any information or remarks to add. If you think we made a mistake, you can also report it there.
Share our Article on:

Table of Contents

About the Author: Tom Vincent

Tom Vincent graduated with a bachelor's degree in economics and social studies. He then started his higher education at the University of François Rabelais in Tours with a DUT Information Communication. To expand his knowledge, he also followed a professional degree in e-commerce and digital marketing at the Lumière University of Lyon. On this project, he is in charge of articles covering language, industry and social.
All Posts Written By Tom Vincent

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

magnifiercrosschevron-downarrow-right linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram