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Should it be 'the case worker supports the client IN finding their goals', 'the case worker support the client WITH finding her goals', or 'the case worker supports a client to find her goals'? Or something else? I can't find any answers to this anywhere!

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  • They're both fine (but unless you particularly like "jargon") helps them to find... would probably be more likely. Plus people usually get help to achieve their goals, not find them. Nov 24, 2016 at 17:35

3 Answers 3

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I think that "in finding" is the better sentence here. "Support with" is quite common in many dialects and would be understood, but it's probably better reserved for describing the means of support. e.g

She supported the project with her knowledge of case studies

In this example, it's clear that she's supporting the project by the means of her case study knowledge. It clearly suggests that it's her knowledge that she is using as a way to support the project.

I would avoid using the to-infinitive to avoid ambiguity. For example if you look at this sentence:

She supported the project to further her own career

In this sentence it's unclear if she supported the project in order to get ahead in her career, or if the purpose of the project was to further her own career. Did she support the "further her career"-project, or did she support an unrelated project with the ultimate goal of getting ahead career-wise? I'd be inclined to reserve the to-infinitive construction for the latter situation. Another example:

A lawyer supports their client to make money

This sentence is very close to yours and as you can see it's highly ambiguous. Do lawyers help their clients in order to make money for themselves, or do they assist their clients in making money?

In your example, while contextually it's clear what you mean, from a purely grammatical perspective it's unclear whether the case working is assisting the client in order to find her own (the caseworker's) goals, or whether the caseworker is assisting in the finding of the client's goals. Since I believe the to-infinitive should prefer the "in order to" interpretation, it doesn't fit what your sentence actually means.

I'll also add that "in identifying her goals" might be preferable to "finding her goals". Finding is a bit too literal for something as abstract as a personal goal.

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  • While this answer is certainly valuable, ELU prefers answers that provide some supporting evidence (I was only able to find online examples used by reasonably authoritative looking bodies) for usages. Nov 24, 2016 at 22:26
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It is not too easy to find a (linguistic) authority that licenses these.

[1] Age UK

... when ... supporting individuals you need to .... support them with this.

and

Agency Government Jobs.com/olmsted

... and support them with carrying out treatment plans ...

use the 'support N1 with N2 / ing-form' usage.

...........

[2] CIS Assessment.co.uk

you will support them in what they believe is ...

and

the RSPH

... support them in carrying out an NHS Health Check assessment.

use the 'support N1 with N2 / ing-form' usage.

...........

[3] And the NHS has an example of the "support N to V" usage:

... with an independent advocate who will support them to make decisions ...

........

This is not to say that each choice is equally appropriate in every situation. As another answer says, ambiguities are possible (with to- and with- variants especially) and should be avoided.

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The case worker supports the client with goal setting [OR: in setting goals].

If you get tired of setting goals (in a long document, for example), you could articulate them.

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