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In examples like the following, what is the difference between "with" and "in". Although, this is only one example, it would be interesting if someone can explain it in more detail.

I will help you with cooking.

I will help you in cooking.

I searched it online and Google came up with both forms used in different websites.

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3 Answers 3

I am unaware of any hard and fast rule either, but having thought about it and looked at some NGram results showing actual uses, a pattern seemed to emerge.

Help with is used for a concrete thing. Saying "in" in this context would not make sense:

  • I will help you with your program.
  • This will help you with your skin problem.

Help in is often used when there's a verb involved. Saying "with" in this context probably works in most cases but doesn't feel as natural:

  • I will help you in writing your program.
  • This will help you in curing your skin problem.

Help in is also used when the thing in question is more nebulous/abstract. Saying "with" makes sense in the first two examples but not the third, so I'm not sure if there's a general rule here:

  • This will help you in life's journey.
  • This book will help you in a number of areas.
  • I will help you in every way I can.
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I agree with the analysis. That said, I think the "help in verb-ing" construct reflects a weak writing style. In your two examples, "I will help you write your program," or "This will help you cure your skin problem," would be improved, more direct ways to convey the sentiments; I believe most editors would agree. –  J.R. Mar 3 '12 at 11:36
    
Yeah I agree that all the alternatives sound better: help you to write your program, help you with your program, and help you write your program. Nonetheless those constructs were the majority of the ones I saw glancing through the NGrams of "help you in". –  Lynn Mar 3 '12 at 13:36

I will help you with this... or will I help you in this? Now I'm too confused to help...

On a more serious note, oftentimes, I think one preposition simply sounds right, even though others would be acceptable. For example, my kids always say, "This happened to me on accident," which always sounds "off" to me (I'd say, "This happened to me by accident"). However, I've lately noticed a lot of others saying "on accident" as well, so maybe it's a mere matter of preference?

Back to with this vs. in this, I think it can depend on the context. For example, I'd say:

  • I will help you with this question. I will help you in this matter.
  • I will help you with your homework. I will help you in your time of need.

In each of these examples, I wouldn't want to swap the prepositions. I'm unaware of any hard-and-fast rule dictating when one should be used over the other.

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Let's take your example and try to get the feeling out:

"I will help you in cooking" — seems to be an offer of help when instance of the act (of cooking) is underway. In other words, when "cooking" becomes a present continuous verb.

"I will help you with cooking" seems to be a kind of help that broadens the scope of time. Here cooking seems to be more of a noun.

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