Word Confusion: Knead vs Kneed vs Need

Posted November 14, 2013 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

LOL, no, this one doesn’t come up that often, but it can be very disconcerting when I’m in the middle of reading a passionate love scene, and she’s suddenly needing his muscles with her frantic fingers. Now, I suppose it could be that she does indeed need that one particular muscle, but that wasn’t the muscle she’s needing, at least not from the context of that paragraph.

The opposite occurs as well, and yes, usually within a romance as well when our heroine kneads him, and only him! And no, I haven’t an objection to her only massaging him. I’ll hope he returns the massage, of course.

Exploring the Differences
…frantically, her fingers gripped his biceps and kneaded his well-muscled arms…

Ahh, she’s squeezing his arms, opening and closing her fingers. Sounds like she’s really involved in, um, something.

…frantically, her fingers gripped his biceps and kneed his well-muscled arms…

Between frantically and kneed, it sounds as if he’s attacking her. She must be on the ground too if she can get her knee slammed into his arms.

…frantically, her fingers gripped his biceps and needed his well-muscled arms…

I dunno…she’s falling, and she’s in need of his strong arm to help pull her back from the cliff’s edge?

I knead you, Lance.

One, English is not her first language. Two, she’s either massaging or wants to massage him.

I kneed you, Lance.

Ouch!! Right in the groin! He’s gonna be pretty useless.

I need you, Lance.

She requires his aid with something. Mmm-hmmm, has my imagination workin’.

Need Has Issues

Need (the noun) has some prepositional requirements, depending upon whether it’s followed by another noun or if the phrase, in need of, is used.

Need (the noun) followed by another noun Use Preposition For …NOT Of
Due to continuous immigration from the mainland, the need for land has increased. Due to continuous immigration from the mainland, the need of land has increased.
If using …to be in need of …Use Of
Support is available for those who are in need of it.
Need (the noun) when followed by a verb Use the to infinitive form NOT the -ing infinitive form
People feel this fundamental need to organize things. People feel this fundamental need of organizing things.

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end.

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Knead Kneed Need
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; Dictionary.com: need

Image is Marcin Bober’s own work [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

A massage using herb balls.

Horses playing and using their knees

“Knee Play” by Daniel Johnson from College Grove, TN, USA (IMG_7903) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

It’s a kind of “kneed” I wasn’t expecting, lol.

“You Need Only One Soap — Ivory Soap” by Adam Cuerden [Public domain or Attribution], via Wikimedia Commons is from an 1898 advertisement for Ivory Soap by the Strobridge Lithography Company of Cincinnati and New York.

Part of Grammar:
Verb, transitive

Past tense & past participle: kneaded
Gerund & Present participle: kneading

Past tense or past participle of knee

Noun; Verb, intransitive & transitive

Plural for the noun and third person present verb: knees
Gerund or present participle: kneeing

Noun 1
Verb 2, modal, intransitive & transitive

Past tense & past participle: needed
Gerund & Present participle: needing

Work moistened flour or clay into dough or paste with one’s hands

  • Make bread or pottery by such a process
  • Massage or squeeze with the hands
Since I’m focusing on kneed, I plan to ignore defining the noun.

Verb, intransitive:
[Obsolete] To go down on the knees

  • Kneel

Verb, transitive:
To strike or touch with the knee

To secure (a structure, as a bent) with a knee

Hit (someone) with one’s knee

Circumstances in which something is necessary, or that require some course of action

Necessity arising from the circumstances of a situation or case

  • A situation or time of difficulty
  • Exigency

[Often needs] A thing that is wanted or required

State of lacking basic necessities such as food or money

  • The state of requiring help or support

A lack of something wanted or deemed necessary

Urgent want, as of something requisite


  • Extreme poverty

Verb, intransitive:
To be under an obligation

To be in need or want

[Archaic] Be necessary

Verb, transitive:
Have need of

Require something because it is essential or very important

  • [Not need something] Not want to be subjected to something

To be necessary

Verb, modal:
[With negative or in questions] Expressing necessity or obligation

Dough must be kneaded to create gluten chains which gives bread its elasticity and helps it to rise so well.

She kneaded his back.

I still have to knead the bread before I can go out.

He kneaded the fabric of his trousers between his fingers.

Verb, intransitive:
She paused, weak-kneed with relief.

He was struck, kneed, and choked as they beat him mercilessly.

Verb, transitive:
She kneed him in the groin.

When he threw himself on top, he accidentally kneed his partner.

Sir Ransom kneed his mount and gained a faster pace.

The basic human need for food.

There’s no need to cry.

His day-to-day needs.

A family whose need was particularly pressing.

Help us in our hour of need.

Verb, intransitive:
There needs no apology.

Lest you, even more than needs, embitter our parting.

He need not go.

If need be, I can walk to the store.

Verb, transitive:
I need help now.

This shirt needs washing.

They need to win tomorrow.

I need money to pay the mortgage.

I don’t need your sarcasm.

Verb, modal:
Need I say more?

I need not have worried.

Adjective: kneadable
Adverb: kneadingly
Noun: kneadability, kneader
Verb, transitive: reknead
Adjective: unneeded, well-needed
Noun: needer
Phrasal Verb
have no need of something
if need be
in need
in need of something
there is no need (for someone) to do something
History of the Word:
From the Old English cnedan, of Germanic origin.

Related to Dutch kneden and German kneten.

Old English cnēow or cnēo is of Germanic origin and related to the Dutch knie and German Knie, from an Indo-European root shared by the Latin genu and Greek gonu. From the Old English nēod, nēd 1, nēodian 2, which is of Germanic origin

Related to Dutch nood and German Not meaning danger.

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves?

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Pinterest Photo Credits:

“A Kick to the Groin” finds U.S. Air Force Capt. Sherry Souriolle, a sexual assault response coordinator (SARC) with 380th Air Expeditionary Wing, preparing to give a kick to the groin of an attacker played by Rick Baldwin, a Northrop Grumman contractor, during self-defense training April 18, 2009, at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia. The SARC is sponsoring training that gives students a chance to learn techniques to defend themselves from attack.

Photograph is by SrA Brian J. Ellis and is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.