Must needs

Barbara Need nee1 at MIDWAY.UCHICAGO.EDU
Thu Jan 17 15:28:11 UTC 2008

On 16 Jan 2008, at 20:47, Wilson Gray wrote:

>  Re:"Needs must when the devil drives."
> Who? Barbara? What? I don't get it.

No. I was really hoping not to get into this conversation!*

I do get it. I have heard it and I can interpret it in context
(though I find it difficult to translate it on the fly into
contemporary English). But I'm not sure I can parse it, though I
suspect that _Needs_ is an NP serving as the subject of _must_ (there
is just no infinitive with _must_ and either an infinitive of some
sort must(!) be understood, or this is a really archaic use of main
verb _must_). In _must needs_, the analysis I have heard is that
_needs_ is from an adverbial use of the genitive noun (which was far
more common in older English), so should be understood as "of


Barbara Need

*You have to understand. I study the history of modal verbs. This
interest is NOT related to my last name being, for some speakers, a
modal verb! When a paper I was presenting at CLS some years ago
touched on the variation in the modal-ness of _need_, I let my co-
author read that part! BN

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