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I work for a large nonprofit org with a very talented marketing and writing team. That said, I constantly see the verb "support(ing)" in our blog posts and articles, followed by a bare infinitive. Example: "We support farmers scale their operations," vs. "We support farmers to scale their operations," or "We support farmers in scaling their operations." It drives me crazy, because I am pretty certain it is grammatically incorrect. I don't think the bare infinitive can correctly be used after the verb "support" the same way it is used after the verb "help." I'm trying to confirm this with an authoritative source, but I am coming up empty. Can anyone here help? Thanks!

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    I agree with you. "...support farmers scale..." no. "... support farmers to scale..." no. "support farmers in scaling..." OK. Not an answer, because I show no authoritative source.
    – GEdgar
    May 26 at 0:15
  • We support farmers in scaling their operations is okay. The others definitely are not. Is this talented team using native British or American English — or something else? May 26 at 4:17
  • @TinfoilHat We are an international org, but headquartered in the U.S., so American English is the standard.
    – Jaime
    May 26 at 18:06
  • Thanks to you both. I wasn't sure if "to scale" was acceptable, so it's helpful to confirm that "in scaling" is probably the only way to do it, without completely reworking the sentence.
    – Jaime
    May 26 at 18:10
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"We support farmers scale their operations." sounds unnatural (support NOUN VERB has essentially no hits of this form in a COCA search). (Note that "We help farmers scale their operations." sounds perfectly natural, but "support" doesn't take an object and an infinitive the way that "help" does.)

""We support farmers [in order] to scale their operations." means that your organization supports farmers so that you can scale their operations or gain the benefit of them scaling their operations. This is such an uncommon interpretation that it's probably more likely that the writer has made an error.

"We support farmers in [the area of] scaling their operations." could mean that your organization helps farmers who are scaling their operations or that your organization helps farmers by scaling their operations for them (the latter meaning would be made clear by using "We support farmers by/through scaling their operations.").

Additional natural-sounding sentences, again supported by a COCA search (of support NOUN _v?g), are "We support farmers [who are] scaling their operations." or, if you wish to emphasize that the scaling hasn't started yet, "We support farmers who wish/seek/aim to scale their operations." In both cases, the meaning is that the farmer is the driving force performing the scaling, and your organization is acting in a (broad or specific) supporting role.

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  • Thank you @Chemomechanics for your thoughtful and thorough answer! Really helpful. Now, how to tell our Marketing team that they've been doing it incorrectly... :)
    – Jaime
    May 26 at 18:14

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