Necesitar Conjugation: Preterite & Subjunctive

Instructor: Elena Sacramento Lechado

Elena teaches Spanish as a foreign language and has a PhD in linguistics.

The Spanish verb 'necesitar' means 'to need.' In this lesson, you'll learn how to talk about past actions with its preterite, and how to express doubt or talk about possibilities with its present subjunctive.

Talking About What We Need

Let's say that your Spanish-speaking friend, Carmen, is giving you instructions to prepare a typical dish from her country. You ask her if the amount of ingredients you're using is enough. She might say 'You'll probably need more eggs,' or 'I don't think you need more sugar.' The following day, you tell another friend that you needed Carmen's help, but you managed to prepare a delicious meal.

To talk about these situations in Spanish, we have to use the verb necesitar (pronounced: neh-seh-see-TAHR), which means 'to need.' When Carmen expresses her opinions, or talks about possibilities, she uses the present subjunctive. To talk about what happened yesterday you'd use the preterite. In the following sections, we'll look at these two tenses using plenty of examples. Let's start!

Preterite of Necesitar

We use the preterite to talk about finished actions in the past. So if you want to say that you needed some tips to prepare a dish or that your brother needed help with his exam, use the preterite of necesitar.

The good news is that necesitar is a regular verb, so its conjugation is pretty simple. Just take its stem necesit- and add the endings below.

Note: Pay attention to the forms that require an accent mark (´). In Spanish, it's very important to write them down to avoid confusion with other verbal tenses.

VERB: necesitar (neh-seh-see-TAHR) - to need

Pronunciation Translation
yo necesité (neh-seh-see-TEH) I needed
necesitaste (neh-seh-see-TAHS-teh) you needed
necesitó (neh-seh-see-TOH) he/she needed
you (formal) needed
necesitamos (neh-seh-see-TAH-mohs) we needed
necesitasteis (neh-seh-see-TAHS-tays) you all needed
necesitaron (neh-seh-see-TAH-rohn) they needed
you all needed

Note: The form vosotros/as is only used in Spain when addressing more than one person in informal situations. In the rest of the Spanish-speaking world, everyone uses the form ustedes.

Examples of Necesitar in the Preterite

Carmen and Luis talk about what they did yesterday evening.

Carmen: Mi hermana necesitó ayuda para su examen de historia y repasamos juntas. (My sister needed help for her history exam, and we reviewed together.)

Luis: Mis padres necesitaron arreglar algunas cosas en casa, y yo les ayudé. (My parents needed to fix some things at home, and I helped them.) Necesitamos salir a comprar algunas herramientas. (We needed to go out to buy some tools.)

Translation: My sister needed help for the exam.

What about yourself? Try and answer these questions in Spanish:

  • ¿Qué necesitaste comprar ayer? (What did you need to buy yesterday?)
  • ¿Cuándo necesitaron ayuda tú y tu familia para hacer arreglos en casa? (When did you and your family need help to make repairs at home?)

Present Subjunctive of Necesitar

The subjunctive is a set of verbal forms we use to express subjective (rather than certain or factual) information, such as doubt or possibilities.

To form the present subjunctive of necesitar, keep using its stem (necesit-) and add the endings below:

VERB: necesitar (neh-seh-see-TAHR) - to need

Pronunciation Translation
yo necesite (neh-seh-SEE-teh) I need
necesites (neh-seh-SEE-tehs) you need
necesite (neh-seh-SEE-teh) he/she needs -
you (formal) need
necesitemos (neh-seh-see-TEH-mohs) we need
necesitéis (neh-seh-see-TAYS) you all need
necesiten (neh-seh-SEE-tehn) they need
you all need

Notice that, in this tense, there is no accent mark on the forms corresponding to yo or él/ella/usted.

Uses & Examples of Necesitar in the Subjunctive

Let's take a look at the ways in which you can use the present subjunctive of necesitar.

Talking about Possibilities

To talk about possible or probable situations, use these expressions followed by any subjunctive form:

  • Es posible que (It's possible that)
  • Es probable que (It's probable that)
  • Posiblemente (Possibly)
  • Probablemente (Probably)

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