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In English, I can say

I don't need to write.

or

I need to not write.

These sentences have distinct meanings.

In Spanish, if I say

No necesito escribir.

and

Necesito no escribir.

Is there a difference? If not, how can I differentiate between these two uses of necesitar?

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    They are different, and they are the same as English. The yellow boxes 3 & 4 are, in fact, the translation of 1 & 2.
    – FGSUZ
    Commented Sep 2, 2019 at 16:36
  • 1
    @FGSUZ oh ok. Could you expand that into an answer? Commented Sep 2, 2019 at 16:51
  • Yeah, sorry, I'm having very little time recently. I just posted the answer.
    – FGSUZ
    Commented Sep 2, 2019 at 19:34
  • the second sentences is it nonsense
    – simon
    Commented Sep 5, 2019 at 4:36

3 Answers 3

4

That's correct, the Spanish version mimic precisely your English sentences. That slight alteration in the order indeed creates a different sentence.

Let's say that you are in some health condition, in which it is mandatory not drinking alcohol, it makes a world of difference saying:

"No necesito tomar alcohol, me puedo divertir igualmente " ["I don't need to drink alcohol, I can still have fun"]

instead of:

"Necesito no tomar alcohol", podría dañar mi higado ["I need to not drink alcohol, it could harm my liver"]

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  • I don't need to drink vs I need to not drink replicated with exact correspondence in Spanish: No necesito tomar vs Necesito no tomar" Commented Sep 2, 2019 at 17:46
  • Welcome, Ignacio! You can edit your post by clicking where it says "edit" if you want to. Commented Sep 2, 2019 at 22:22
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There is a difference, as you point out. This verb works the same as English, because the meaning is exactly the same.

To need = to have the neccesity.

In Spanish, necesitar.

No necesito escribir = I don't need to write

You are saying that you don't need something, you do not have the neccesity of writing. That does not mean you don't want to, but only that you don't need to. It is the same as English.

Here, you're negating the verb. You are negating that you have such neccesity, so you do not need that.

If you don't need that, it is not required. If it is there, it can be okay or not, but that wasn't a requirement.


On the other hand,

Necesito no escribir = I need not to write

In this case, the particle "no" is negating the object action.

[no escribir]works as a block. Whereas "necesitar" is now affirmative, non-negated.

"I need [not to write]". NEcesito [no escribir].

You do need that. You have the neccesity.

Neccesity of what? Of "not to write".

It is a requiremnt that you are not going to write.

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    I must add, however, that "necesito no hacer" might not be as common as English. Instead, we say "necesito dejar de hacer" (need to stop doing) more usually, altough there might be regional variations
    – FGSUZ
    Commented Sep 2, 2019 at 19:36
  • The change in order (necesito no hacer algo) is fairly emphatic to me, unless included in a list (necesito hacer X, hacer Y, y no hacer Z), and I think that's why traditionally, there would be other ways to say it like "Necesito evitar el alcohol" or "No puedo tomarlo", "Lo tengo prohibido" etc Commented Sep 3, 2019 at 23:34
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In addition to the suggestions in the other two posts, I will give you some common, idiomatic expressions to add to your repertoire.

  • No hace falta escribir | There's no need to write (i.e., it's not necessary)

  • No hay que escribir | Writing should not take place

  • No debo escribir | I'm not supposed to write (i.e., I mustn't write)

  • No debería escribir | I shouldn't be writing (i.e., I ought not to write)

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    Indeed, these would be more common than any of the sentences appearing in other answers Commented Sep 3, 2019 at 8:53
  • 1
    i think this answer provides a "workaround" for how those ideas can be expressed easier
    – Mike
    Commented Sep 4, 2019 at 0:01

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