I've been experiencing this for a long time now. In Microsoft Word 2007, whenever I type the sentence,

"Thank you for helping me become who I am now,"

it always tells me that my use of "become" in the sentence makes it grammatically incorrect and that I should use "becomes".

So which is it really? Become or becomes?

(You can try it on your MS Word, see if it gives you the same result)

  • 5
    I recommend that you avoid relying on MS Word's grammar checker or believing that it is always or even mostly correct. Your sentence is perfectly fine. Nov 6 '12 at 14:01
  • 1
    @coleopterist I've been thinking that ever since I started using MS Word. Thanks for the tip though~ At least I'm sure not to trust MS Word's grammar checker too much now
    – Ace
    Nov 6 '12 at 14:07
  • I've turned mine off; it's far too unreliable. No wavy green lines; and I've ended up adding lots of "custom" spellings to the dictionary, too.
    – Andrew Leach
    Nov 6 '12 at 14:12
  • 1
    Grammar checkers are hopeless. Turn them off. And never rely on their "advice". Nov 6 '12 at 16:13

The grammar checker is wrong. (When in doubt, always assume that the grammar checker is wrong.)

The verb to help takes a bare infinitive complement, which is the infinitive without the to. This is regardless of the number and person of the subjects.

They helped her find her lost dog.

I helped him write his paper.

He helped her learn to juggle.

In your case, the verb helping is a gerund, but its complements are still a bare infinitive. Your sentence is correct; ignore the tedious yapping of the grammar checker.


"helping me become who I am," as a contraction of "helping me to become who I am," is the proper logical grammatical usage. It is a sentence full of meaning. A mentor, for example, could be helping me in my effort to be who I really am, rather than what I pretend to be.

"Helping me becomes who I am" jars, not because it offends rules of grammar but because it is nonsensical. In this sentence, "Helping me" is the subject, followed by a third person singular of the verb "become" and making "who I am" the predicate. The sentence is grammatical but makes no sense, because the act of "Helping me" can never be equated to "who I am." "Helping me" and "who I am," as two stand alones," are not compatible. When "becomes" is used, the entire expression is to be interpreted as the act of "Helping me" (in the sense of my getting help) somehow getting changed (i.e. "becomes") and the result of the change is "who I am", which makes no sense at all.

Compare "Seeing poorly is what ails me." That is both grammatical and meaningful, because "seeing poorly" and "what ails me" are compatible. We could even say "Seeing poorly becomes what really ails me". In other words, if I keep on using my poor eyesight to read, say, small characters, that exercise will turn into something that really ails me.

This analysis requires no research, merely the application of well established grammar rules and cognition of what makes sense and what does not.

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