Can you assist someone to do something?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by That's Capital, Feb 8, 2010.

  1. That's Capital Senior Member

    Although I would consider 'help' and 'assist' to be fairly synonymous, I have come across a lot of people using the term 'assist to' as in the following sentence:

    A mediator assists two or more parties to work out a solution.

    To me that jars a bit, but is it grammatically correct? I would prefer either:

    A mediator helps two or more parties to work out a solution


    A mediator assists two or more parties in working out a solution

    Any thoughts?
  2. Andygc

    Andygc Senior Member

    British English
    There is nothing wrong with any of those sentences and you could add the obvious fourth:

    A mediator helps two or more parties in working out a solution

    Surely it just comes down to personal preference?
  3. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    The OED says that "assist ... to" is obsolete.
    Perhaps it is coming back :)
    It still sounds odd to me ... now that you have pointed it out.
    Andygc's obvious fourth sounds odd to me as well.
    It's a matter of what is customarily used. An unusual collocation causes interruption.
  4. entangledbank

    entangledbank Senior Member

    English - South-East England
    Google shows the 'to' construction to be common, in both websites and books. Perhaps half the hits for "assisted him to", for example, are followed by an infinitive clause, and many of those seem modern. The OED's letter A dates from about 1890, of course, so the 'obs.' should be considered obsolete itself.

    The British National Corpus confirms this: in a random sample of 50 uses of 'assist', there are 9 followed by object + 'in' + gerund-participial clause, 4 followed by object + 'to' + infinitival clause. (There are also 3 followed by object + 'with' + a gerundial form, but in none of these is it possible to tell whether it's a noun or a clause.)
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2010
  5. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    "Assists to..." sounds like the sort of thing I have come to expect from
    people working for large organizations, or organizations that aspire to be
    large. I can't find fault with the grammar, but the style is not endearing.
  6. That's Capital Senior Member

    Thanks for the helpful replies all. Cuchuflete you are spot on!
  7. Ivan_I Senior Member

    What would you say about this usage?

    I assisted International students attend Kent State University.

    Is omitting "to" in this sentence acceptable?
  8. Andygc

    Andygc Senior Member

    British English
  9. Ivan_I Senior Member

  10. Hermione Golightly

    Hermione Golightly Senior Member

    British English
    I don't even know what this means! Probably he means he's helped them get into Kent State.
    I suspect that he wants to avoid repeating the phrasing of the sentence above your quote which says he's helped students pass various exams. He's ended up with an unacceptable sentence.

    It's better to rewrite and say it another way than start avoiding repetition, which often leads to misuse of words since very few words are entirely synonymous.

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