I am teaching a class and a student asked why "on" changes to "with" in the second sentence.

  1. I need help on my homework.

  2. I'll help you with your homework.

"With" works fine in both sentences, but I feel that "on" doesn't feel natural in the second sentence. I couldn't give a student a grammatical rule about this.

Can anyone explain why "on" doesn't work in the second sentence as in:

I'll help you on your homework.

  • 2
    Technically "with" is the proper choice of preposition here for both sentences, but in most English vernacular the first sentence is totally acceptable. However, the correct word choice is "with". "On", even in it's adverbial sense, is meant more to "continue an action", such as, "they blabbed on and on....". The main rule of prepositions is just that they need a noun/object to follow them. Generally, using them at the end of a sentence is not allowed but there are circumstances whereby if the logic of the sentence is impeded then you can use one. – Kace36 Jul 9 '17 at 6:41
  • Well, why does it change? You haven't explained why you think on "doesn't work" or doesn't sound "natural" here. It is every bit as idiomatic and natural as with, or so it sounds to me. It's a commonplace in English idiom to perform an action on sth, even helping on homework. I can't think of a grammatical "rule" that prohibits it. "With" may be more common, but no-one I know would bat an eye at "on". – P. E. Dant Jul 9 '17 at 6:41
  • To this native (AmE) speaker, "I need help on my homework" is just a little off, so the question is not why it switches, but why this seems more acceptable; it sounds marginally a little better. – Xanne Jul 9 '17 at 7:31
  • As a 60+ BrE speaker. (1) doesn't seem at all natural to me. I would always say 'help with' in this context. – Kate Bunting Jul 9 '17 at 8:54

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