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First sentence:

On a besoin d'apprendre les mots parce qu'ils sont très important.

Second sentence:

On doit apprendre les mots parce qu'ils sont très important.

I am a bit confused because in English both "need to" and "must" would work in this context. I was wondering if this is also the case in French?

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    They do not mean the same in English, and so don't they in French: see What's the difference between "avoir besoin de" and "devoir" – jlliagre May 21 '18 at 11:40
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    Side question: should it be "importants" here, in this post? Do adjectives agree when they're later in the sentence rather than directly attached to the noun? – temporary_user_name May 21 '18 at 15:06
  • @Aerovistae Quite right - it should agree. – Luke Sawczak May 24 '18 at 12:34
  • @jlliagre Which English translations do you have in mind? Need to vs. have to? I would say they're the same in this context - which is probably why they've led to mistakenly thinking the French is also the same. I'm actually hesitant about "avoir besoin de" at all in this context! – Luke Sawczak May 24 '18 at 12:38
  • @LukeSawczak I was thinking about we need to vs we must. While they are very close in this context, I still believe they are not strictly equivalent. Avoir besoin is about usefulness while devoir is about something imposed (even if self-imposed). Both of the OP sentences might be heard in French. – jlliagre May 24 '18 at 13:13
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In this context, I would consider both sentences as equivalent. They both carry the idea that "apprendre les mots" is an obligation and the slight difference in meaning is not important here.

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