“Do the Needful” – What Does It Mean and Where Did It Come From?


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“Do the needful” is a phrase in Indian English that means, “do what is necessary” or “do that which is needed.” It is a phrase commonly used to request a person to perform a task without supervision. When someone tells you to “do the needful,” they are asking you to complete a task or job.

Globalization and the heightened online outsourcing of jobs from India caused a lot of people in the Western world to hear this phrase for the first time, resulting in confusion!

For those who are unfamiliar with this phrase or in Indian culture in general, hearing it may sound confusing or vague. It is because the phrase does not convey an in-depth message but rather an equivocal call to action.

Where did the phrase “do the needful” come from?

The phrase is of British origin which can be traced back to as early as the 1700s. It may have diminished its popularity on British soil but the country’s colonialism allowed the phrase to flourish in the east, most particularly in India where it is commonly used in corporate colloquialism.

How do you reply to the phrase “do the needful”?

The top response that you can provide with this phrase is “Sure. Thank you.” In saying, “sure,” it means that you are acknowledging the request and confidently accepting the task at hand. Saying “thank you” conveys politeness and gratitude for the person’s faith that you can deliver the desired result for the task.

Is the phrase “do the needful” rude?

The phrase is a request and a call for action that is sometimes used in urgent situations. It is not a rude phrase but the speaker can easily be mistaken as rude or impolite. If the speaker expresses it in a condescending tone, possibly unknowingly due to the urgency of the matter, then the recipient of the message may take it as rude.

Examples sentences for the phrase “do the needful”

Example 1:

“I’m afraid that these urgent meetings will not be finished �until 5:00 PM. I need you to do the needful so that we can comply with the project deadline tomorrow.”

Example 2:

“We are begging you to command the local authorities to do the needful in finding the lost child before it’s too late.”

What to use instead of “do the needful”?

The best alternatives that you can use with this phrase are “please do what is required” and “please proceed accordingly.” Saying “please” will add politeness to the request and the words “required” as well as “proceed accordingly” conveys a thought that is very similar to the original phrase.

Conclusion

In Indian culture, “do the needful” is a convenient phrase used in numerous situations. Using the phrase will allow you to request someone to do what needs to be done without tediously outlining every detail. It may be vague or strange to unfamiliar ears but you will appreciate the benefits of this phrase once you get used to it. Simply express the phrase using the right tone of voice and you as well as the recipient of the message can communicate efficiently even under urgent conditions.


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