If required vs if need be vs :) if necessary


I know that the patterns are in use and have quite similar meanings. According with BNC, Google, dictionaries and what I myself read.

Do you normally/often/ever use the subjunctive form if need be (or even 'if need were :))
in writing?

In particular.
I am now writing an answer to an e-mail that, in fact, is a quite formal letter containing such extra phrases as ‘I should very much like to meet you sometime soon…’, ‘When you have received the <….> perhaps you could <…>’ and the like.

Which expression would be better to use if I want to express that by now (in my own understanding) I seem to have done all what was required by formal rules, but for some reasons I suppose that the other part can rise some additional (and essential!) requirements – just after reading my answer. :slight_smile:

Does ‘…, if required’ express that?

Hi Tamara

The phrase “if need be” is a fixed phrase and I’d use it to mean “if necessary” or “if needed”.

For the purposes of the letter you’re describing, it seems to me that you should stick with saying “if necessary” or “if needed”. Those phrases are quite standard and I see no reason not to use them in a formal letter.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.:wink: (In other words, I’d suggest you do your experimenting with “if need be” somewhere else before you try to include it in an important letter. -OR- Give us the whole sentence that you want to use it in.)

I’d say you could use “if required”, but I’d still tend to prefer “if necessary” or “if needed”.


I would never say “if need were” :shock:

Hi Amy,

Another good saying is ‘Perfect is the enemy of the good’. :slight_smile:

I’ve just sent my answer with if needed.
Thanks a lot, Amy.


Even in the Reported speech (in the case when the Direct one contains ‘if need be’)?

No, Tamara, I seriously doubt that even my constant exposure to prescriptive grammar books would lead me to report that phrase any other way than “if need be” :lol:

I’m quite certain that what would come out of my size=75[/size] mouth would be something like:
He said he’d do it if need be.” :twisted: :lol:

But I wouldn’t have any trouble saying:
He said he’d do it if it were needed/necessary.”

  • OR -
    He said he’d do it if needed/necessary.” (That solves the whole “BE” problem quite neatly, doesn’t it? :lol: :wink: :lol:)


Amy, you did not say anything about if required? Is it synonymous with if needed?


Hi Tom

Actually, I did mention “as required”. :wink:
It’s really not much different from “if needed”, but to me the tone of it is “harder”.


Hi Amy,
Thank you for the explanation.

You are absolutely right, if need were isn’t in use, in fact.

I’ve found it only with the (and it seems to be not that Subjunctive form. :slight_smile: Or what? :slight_smile: )


Hi Tamara

Yes, exactly! The words need and were can be used together, I just wouldn’t change the “stand-alone” phrase “if need be”.

“… if it were needed.”
“… if the need were not too dire.”