Guide: How to Say “Need To” in Japanese

Gaining proficiency in a language requires understanding its various nuances, and Japanese is no exception. One important aspect of mastering Japanese is learning how to express the concept of “need to” in different situations. In this guide, we explore both formal and informal ways of conveying this idea, along with some additional tips and examples to help you on your language learning journey.

Formal Expressions:

When speaking in formal settings or with individuals of higher social status, it is essential to use polite language. In Japanese, we use the following expressions to convey the meaning of “need to” formally:

1. – 必要(ひつよう)がある (- hitsuyō ga aru):

This is a versatile phrase that translates to “need to” or “must” in English. It is widely used in formal contexts to express obligation, necessity, or requirement.

Example: 社会貢献するためには、努力する必要があります。
Translation: To contribute to society, effort is necessary.

2. – 必ず(かならず)~しなければならない (- kanarazu ~ shinakereba naranai):

This expression emphasizes the sense of duty or obligation in a formal context. It attaches to verbs, indicating that something “must” or “has to” be done.

Example: 朝ごはんを食べる前に、歯を磨かなければなりません。
Translation: You must brush your teeth before eating breakfast.

Informal Expressions:

When conversing with friends, family, or in casual situations, you can use more relaxed language to express the concept of “need to” in Japanese. Here are some common informal expressions:

1. – ~なきゃ (- ~ nakya):

This casual phrase is a contraction of “なければならない (nakereba naranai)” used in formal expressions. It is widely used in everyday conversations.

Example: メールを送らなきゃ、遅刻しますよ。
Translation: If you don’t send the email, you’ll be late.

2. – ~必要(ひつよう)だ (- ~ hitsuyō da):

This informal expression is similar to the formal “必要がある (hitsuyō ga aru).” It is commonly used among friends or acquaintances to talk about what “needs to” be done.

Example: 明日は試験があるから、勉強が必要だ。
Translation: Since there is an exam tomorrow, studying is necessary.

Additional Tips:

Here are some additional tips to help you further understand and master the usage of “need to” in Japanese:

1. Context Matters:

Always consider the context in which you are speaking or writing. Japanese is a contextual language, and the appropriate expression may vary depending on the situation and the relationship between the speaker and the listener.

2. Politeness is Key:

When in doubt, it’s generally safer to lean towards polite expressions, especially when speaking with individuals of higher social status or in formal settings. Using formal language demonstrates respect and politeness.

3. Observe Native Speakers:

Try to listen to and observe native Japanese speakers in different contexts to gain a better understanding of how they express the concept of “need to.” Mimicking their usage can help you develop a more natural and authentic Japanese communication style.


Mastering the various ways to express “need to” in Japanese is essential for effective communication. By understanding both formal and informal expressions and considering the context and politeness level, you can confidently convey your intentions. Remember to practice regularly and immerse yourself in the language for faster progress. Ganbatte! (Good luck!)

⭐Share⭐ to appreciate human effort 🙏

Written by Monique Mildred

Konnichiwa! I'm Monique, your friendly guide to all things Japanese. From perfectly articulating how to say "Smart Phone" in Japanese to expressing "You're So Hot," my posts have you all covered. When I'm not immersing myself in Japanese language and culture, I'm spending my time sculpting, playing chess and exploring Computer Science. Golfing and baking strawberry cakes are also passions of mine. I believe there's no such thing as knowing too much Nihongo, so get ready to join me in this exciting and rewarding journey. お楽しみください (Enjoy!)

Leave a Reply

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