'Needs' vs 'Wants': What's the Difference?

By Amy Gilmore, updated on August 28, 2023

Are you looking for the difference between 'needs' vs. 'wants?' I can help!

Here is the quick answer: 

  • 'Needs' is an adverb that means necessity. 
  • 'Wants' is a verb or noun that means to be needy or destitute or to desire something. 

There is so much more to learn about these terms. So, you 'need' to read the rest of this post with definitions, examples, and usage tips.

What is the Difference Between 'Needs' vs. 'Wants?'

People often use the terms 'needs' and 'wants' to describe things they have to or want to obtain. Knowing the difference between these terms is beneficial so you can choose the appropriate term.

  • 'Needs' is an adverb you use to describe something as a necessity.
    • For example, if I say, 'I need to pay my electric bill,' I mean that I have to pay it or I will suffer the consequences of not paying the bill.
  • On the other hand, 'wants' means that you desire something, but it is not necessarily a necessity.
    • So, if I say, 'I want to pay my electric bill,' I would like to pay it, but if I don't pay it, I will likely not suffer consequences like having my electricity disconnected.

'Wants' is a noun and verb. If I tell you I want to go on vacation, it is a wish of mine, but it is not a necessity.

When and How to Use 'Needs' vs. 'Wants'

Now that you know the difference between these terms, here are some tips for when and how to use 'needs' vs. 'wants.'

  • Use 'needs' to say that something is necessary.

For example, you can say:

She needs to turn in her homework. Otherwise, she will fail the class.

  • Use 'wants' to say that something is your desire but that it is not necessarily essential.

As an example, I might say:

He wants to go to the concert, but his parents will not let him. 

  • Use 'wants' and 'needs' together to say that someone desires something non-essential.

So, you might say:

He wants to go to the concert, but his parents will not let him go because he needs to do his homework. 

Definition of 'Needs': What Does 'Needs' Mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the definition of the adverb 'needs' means:

  • Necessity or necessarily

Synonyms and Similar Words to 'Needs'

Synonyms are words that you can use in place of another term. Here are some that you can use for 'needs.'

  • Necessity
  • Necessarily
  • Unavoidably
  • Ineluctably
  • Requires
  • Wants
  • Demands
  • Asks
  • Lacks
  • Begs
  • Cries for
  • Clamors for
  • Insists
  • Stipulates
  • Hurts
  • Exacts
  • Presses
  • Commands
  • Must
  • Should
  • Essentials
  • Requisites
  • Conditions
  • Must-haves
  • Wishes
  • Plusses
  • Obligations
  • Requirements
  • Vows
  • Burdens
  • Pledges
  • Constraints
  • Duties
  • Pledges
  • Payments
  • Contracts
  • Trusts

Definition of 'Wants': What Does 'Wants' Mean?

The same source defines the verb 'wants' as:

  • To be destitute or needy

It can also mean:

  • To feel a need or desire
  • To be necessary or needed
  • To desire to be, come, have, or go
  • To lack or fail to have the required amount
  • To strongly desire something
  • To suffer from a lack of something
  • To wish or demand something
  • To look for something with the intention of apprehending it

It can also be a noun that means:

  • A lack or deficiency
  • Extreme poverty that interferes with or deprives one of the necessities of life
  • Need or desire for something
  • Personal fault or defect

Synonyms and Similar Words to 'Wants'

  • Craves
  • Desires
  • Wishes
  • Enjoys
  • Likes
  • Prefer
  • Yearns
  • Thirsts
  • Sighs
  • Hunger for
  • Lusts
  • Itches
  • Fancies
  • Needs
  • Requires
  • Claims
  • Takes
  • Demands
  • Asks
  • Warrants
  • Begs
  • Presses
  • Exacts
  • Insists

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce 'Needs' vs. 'Wants'

When you are learning new terms, you must look at the pronunciation, especially if you are learning English as a second language. By learning the proper way to pronounce terms, you have more confidence to use them.

So, here is a pronunciation guide for 'needs' vs. 'wants.'

  • Use this phonetic spelling for 'needs':


  • Use this phonetic spelling for 'wants':


Sample Sentences Using 'Needs' vs. 'Wants'

Here are some sample sentences using 'needs' vs. 'wants.' Read them before you go to ensure that you remember how to use them.


  • She needs to submit her application by May 1st if she wants to attend the summer session.
  • We need to be more mindful of our conversation around the children.
  • Everyone needs money for food, housing, utilities, and other necessities.
  • We pray that our needs are met.
  • It is essential to ensure that your needs are met.


  • He wants to take his girlfriend out to eat, but he does not have money to put gas in the car and pay for their meal.
  • If your boss wants you to stay late, he must pay you more.
  • She wants to go with her friends, but she is not allowed.
  • The teacher wants her students to learn how to multiply fractions.
  • The girl wants a new bike for Christmas.


  • Do you really need to go on vacation or just want to get away?
  • By definition, wants and needs are similar, but most people believe wants are optional and needs are necessary.
  • If she wants to go with us, she needs to be here by 9 a.m.
  • The spoiled teenager wants for nothing, but she is constantly complaining that she needs things.

Final Thoughts on the Difference Between 'Needs' vs. 'Wants'

Congratulations on finishing this post. Here is a quick recap of what you learned about the difference between 'needs' vs. 'wants': 

  • 'Needs' is an adverb that means necessary or necessity. 
  • 'Wants' is a noun and verb that means desire or destitute and needy. 

You should be an expert on the difference between these terms now. However, you can always return to this page to review this lesson if you get mixed up in the future.

You can also verify the meanings of hundreds of other words in the confusing words section here.

Each guide has useful tips, definitions, pronunciations, and examples. So, they are an excellent way to improve your writing skills while expanding your vocabulary.

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Written By:
Amy Gilmore
Amy Gilmore is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. She has been a professional writer and editor for the past eight years. She developed a love of language arts and literature in school and decided to become a professional freelance writer after a demanding career in real estate. Amy is constantly learning to become a better writer and loves sharing tips with other writers who want to do the same.

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