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Huge discussion here at home.

My daughter insists that in her speech is correct saying:

"Good friendships helped me go through tough times"

Her father insists that it should say either:

"Good friendships helped me going through tough times"

What is the English grammar rules that govern the tense of "to help" and the phrasal verb "to go through" in sentences such as this one?

Thank you

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    I would say neither, but "Good friendships helped me get through tough times." The first one in particular, could be read that the friendships were the cause of hard times. Commented Jun 19, 2020 at 13:05
  • Thank you. English is not my first language, but I think you're using an entirely different phrasal verb there, i.e., "to get through" instead of "to go through". Are you saying we're using the wrong phrasal verb altogether for the purpose? Because the purpose is saying friendships have helped the subject to go past a bad period and coming out at the other end. Commented Jun 19, 2020 at 13:22
  • In the second case using going, I would rephrase it as "Good friendships helped me when I was going through tough times." The first one as mentioned is ambiguous. Commented Jun 19, 2020 at 13:27
  • Your sentence makes perfect sense. Yet it sounds like a reference to a specific hard period ("[the time] when I was") and emphasizes those times, as if those were particularly hard. The sentence however requires a more general and lighter touch. The text is about the importance of friendships, which indeed have helped her through hard times in general (a few, here and there, none specific, and not too serious). I see how the first sentence is wrong but can't get my head around the my sencond sentence. Hummm....! Commented Jun 19, 2020 at 14:03
  • Saying "through tough times" in the pural does make it a general statement, and to make it even more general you can use the present tense: "Good friendships help me get through tough times." This seems IMO to move the emphasis toward the friends. Commented Jun 19, 2020 at 14:12

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The first one is more idiomatically common, and I believe that is indeed what you mean to say. I will analyse the difference between the two.

(In the following, we will ignore the alternative wording suggested by the contributors in the comment section -- they may or may not be improvements, but that's irrelevant to the immediate question you are asking.)

The first one literally means: "Good friendships helped me to go through tough times."

That is, the help is what is needed in order to be able to go through the tough times.

The second one literally means: "Good friendships helped me while I was going through tough times."

That is, you would have gone through the tough times whether or not your good friendships were around to help you, but they did make it easier for you.

The difference is subtle, and I believe that you are correct in your understanding that the first one is what you meant.

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  • Thank you. I guess they are both correct, depending on what my daughter was trying to say. The first says without friendships she would not be able to, the second is it helped her going through hard times but she would have gone through them anyway. Commented Jun 19, 2020 at 14:53

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