"We need to wash the dishes."
Translation:Нам надо помыть посуду.
But посуду is singular accusative, not plural. I don't understand why this is used if the English sentence reads, "dishes."
And why do the Russians that work on Викисловарь give the full plural - what does the plural mean then?
The colloquial meaning is: "Отделный предмет из такой утвари (обычно о банке, бутылке)." For example, "цена молока вместе с посудой."
Some examples of the primary meaning: Столовая посуда (для еды). Чайная посуда (для чаепития). Кухонная посуда (для приготовления пищи).
So it's a "mass noun" as we would say in English...I did figure this out in the next sentence.
Тарелки is only plates while посуду is dishes (plates, glasses, spoons etc)
True, but 'wash the dishes' can mean either wash the tableware or wash the plates. For example: I'll wash the pots and you wash the dishes.
Ok, first I got fed up with this because I had no clue why it's not "мы". Then I realised I had likely just fallen once again into the pit of false translation - dumbly thinking that надо means "need". Then a dim and distant memory reminded me that it should really be thought of as something more like "it is necessary/required" - a Russian expressing this meaning is actually saying something more like "For us, it is necessary to wash the dishes" (you sometimes hear these constructions in Russian speakers' English). As soon as you think of it this way it is obvious why Мы/We cannot work, and why instead you need a something like "To us" or "for us", which IMO gives a much more satisfactory explanation of why you need the dative than simply trying to remember the arbitrary requirement that "надо needs dative" :)
Honestly this is all the conjecture of a struggling beginner, I hope it's close to the mark and helps someone else, but if not, please correct me!
You nailed it. Now a step further. Often (but not always) -о on the end indicates a neuter short-form adjective or an adverb. The dative is used with many such words: нам холодно, нам жарко, нам хорошо, нам плохо, нам надо. We can write мы with a verb expressing need, for example, Мы нуждаемся (we are needy, we live in need) or мы нуждаемся в посуде (we need dishes, our neediness is in dishes). If you want to use мы in a sentence, then you generally need a first-person, plural verb form to go with it.
I do something similar, I like to think of it as 'to me/us it is necessary'.
I've seen a couple answers to this around the internet, take both of these with a grain of salt.
The first, which I now believe is probably wrong, is that one implies morale imperative while the other does not. Something like 'I need to call me mother' vs 'I need water before I die'.
The second is that one is a tad easier to teach/learn than the other. надо is less common, and less formal, but has a couple nice qualities which make it more teachable: easy to say, doesn't require declination. Нужно needs to be declined if used with nouns instead of verbs. And apparently you don't use надо for nouns.
We rarely use надо with nouns, and then the verb is usually sort of implied. For example, надо денег implies the need to have or to get money.
There are several words formed from the root нуд- (нужд-, нуж-).
нужда (need, want) - Они жувут в нужде. (They live in need.)
нуждаться (to be in need, be in want) - Я ни в чем не нуждаюсь. (I do not need anything.)
нужный (necessary, needed) - Он был нужен отцу. (He was necessary to his father. His father needed him.)
принуждать, принудить (to force, compel) - Она приуждена была согласиться. (She was forced to agree.) Обстоятельства прудили его продать дом. (Circumstances forced him to sell the house.)
IIRC, надо requires dative. This part might not be true, but I think saying нас we be like saying 'us need' instead of 'we need'.