I have done a translation and the Dutchman (who speaks American English) who wrote the book is going through the text often changing "in + verb" constructions to "to + verb".

For example,

this tool helps in dealing with this


this tool helps to deal with this

Is he just simplifying the text to his preference, or is the latter formulation more common in American English?

  • 3
    For the handful of verbs I tried on Ngrams, Americans were quite a bit more likely to use "helps in dealing/running" than Brits were. So the latter formulation seems less common in American English. – Peter Shor Jan 28 '13 at 14:49
  • I would use either of these quite happily (UK). – Mynamite Jan 28 '13 at 16:23
  • I would prefer helps when dealing or helps to deal, but I wouldn't strenuously object to helps in dealing either (also UK) – Kyudos Feb 4 '13 at 1:46

I would say that it depends on context.

For example:

This tool helps in dealing with the myriad problems that can occur while editing.

feels better to me than to deal with, probably because helping rather than dealing is the point of the sentence. This sentence might be rephrased a This tool helps with the myriad....


It helps to deal with editing issues before submitting the manuscript.

feels better to me than in dealing with, perhaps because dealing is the focus. This sentence might be rephrased in the imperative as Deal with editing issues before....

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  • I think you've put your finger on it. These are actually different meanings - or at least, two different subcategorisation frames - of "help", the latter being an impersonal verb without a lexical subject. I would not use "to deal" in the first sense, though with a specific object I might: "The tool helped him to deal with ... " – Colin Fine Feb 5 '13 at 0:17

Certainly as a Brit the construction "helps in dealing with this" sounds odd. Although it's understandable, I wouldn't consider it idiomatic British English. If it is idiomatic US English then yes, it's a UK/US difference.

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I write as a British English speaker. Usually I would prefer the second, especially if the fragment is actually a complete sentence and this has been defined in the immediately preceding text. For instance:

'The connectors can be difficult to remove. This tool helps to deal with this.'

But the repetition of 'this' is ugly. I would be surprised if a teacher of English in the US or the UK would accept it as good style.

I would probably consider recasting the sentence in which such constructions occur to replace the unspecific 'dealing/deal' with a verb that describes the activity more definitely:

'This tool can be used to make removing the connectors easier.'


'This tool can be used to make the removal of the connectors easier.'

But remember that British English usage is by no means standardized and varies with the age of the writer (I am 57), the kind of education they had (strict English teachers, science degree), the place in which they grew up (the south west of England), and the audience to which the writing is directed.

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American here.

Both sound fine. The "in" version sounds slightly more natural; the "to" version slightly more foreign. If I were proofreading text containing either construction, or both constructions, I wouldn't feel compelled to change anything.

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