In my textbook the word надо is translated into: "It is needed" and нужен: "needed". As russian speaker. When do you use these two words, are there any nuances?

4 Answers 4


Generally speaking, надо is more colloquial than нужен.

To say [somebody] needs [something] you use the two words in such a way: [somebody in the Dat. case] надо/нужен [something in the Nom. case]. Note, надо never changes its form, but нужен must agree in number and gender with the subject of the sentence, that is the part which is in the Nominative case. For example:

I need a pencil.

Мне надо карандаш.

Мне нужен карандаш.


Oleg needs a pen.

Олегу надо ручка.

Олегу нужна ручка.

Still, in sentences like [somebody] needs [something], нужен is used more often.

There is another way to use the two words, it is when you want to say [somebody] needs [to do something]. In this case, нужен is used in the neuter gender, нужно, and both words are absolutely interchangeable. The construction is like this: [somebody in the Dat. case] надо/нужно [infinitive phrase]. For example:

I need to go.

Мне надо/нужно уходить.


You need to see that.

Вам надо/нужно это увидеть.

  • 3
    Sorry, but you can't say "мне надо карандаш", "надо" is always about some action. Both words are OK if you talk about some action, "надо сходить в магазин"/"нужно сходить в магазин", but then "нужно" is more formal. If you need something (or someone), it will always be "нужен": "мне нужен карандаш", "чтобы решить проблему, нам нужен Вася", "я никому не нужен, пойду повешусь"
    – Alissa
    Commented Oct 7, 2015 at 10:55
  • "Мне надо VERB карандаш" and “Олегу надо VERB ручку" are correct. “Олегу надо ручку" is more colloquial. But "Олегу надо ручка" sounds like said by guest worker. "Мне надо карандаш" - it is only a spoken language, and the one who says that, knows that this is incorrect to say so.
    – Paul
    Commented Oct 7, 2015 at 10:59

"Надо" (нужно) mainly combines with verbs (infinitives):

это надо/нужно сделать - it needs to be done, 

while "нужен" (м.р.) combines with (masculine) nouns:

 нужен нож - a knife is needed.

Нужный is an adjective meaning "needed", "required", "necessary".

Нужен / Нужна is a short adjective made of the full form нужный. Short adjectives often are the part of predicative (e.g. "Я им нужен") but they are still adjectives.

Нужно / Надо are purely impersonate constructions like, say, Spanish hay que. The closest English equivalent would be "It is needed". The difference between надо and нужно is very, very slight. You may simply ignore it for a moment.

P.S. Technically, нужно is the neuter gender of the short adjective нужен / нужна but in the vast majority of cases нужно stands for an impersonate, not for an adjective.


The same like "we need" vs "he is needed (for something)"

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.