In this page, http://www.ucblueash.edu/now/2016/03/07/let-us-hear-you-student-survey/, the first sentence says:

Students – We need your help in letting us know why you attend UCBA, how you rate your experience, and how we can make improvements for the future.

"letting us know why you attend UCBA" is the gerund phrase I am interested in. So I have some questions:

  1. Is the gerund phrase in this case called an object of the preposition "in"?
  2. If we will remove the preposition "in", what will it be called now? Just a normal noun?
  3. So if there is no "in" before the gerund phrase, what is the correct term to call the gerund phrase in the sentence?

For questions 1 and 2, according to a user here, https://ell.stackexchange.com/a/58097/19539, using "in" in many cases is not necessary. For example, "Thank you for your help in cooking dinner" could also be written as "Thank you for your help cooking dinner". So my last two questions are related to the correct term to use if there is "in" and if there is no "in". If there is no "correct" term for that, at least the "common" or "usual" term instead.

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    Any gerund or gerund phrase functions as a noun. We call "letting us know why you attend UCBA" a noun phrase. Here, the noun phrase serves as the object of the preposition in. Commented Nov 17, 2016 at 9:36
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    The noun phrase is still the object of the preposition; the preposition is understood still to be there. Read about ellipsis here (the first definition.) It is quite common in English. Commented Nov 17, 2016 at 10:53
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    @BillJ when you say "obligatory" do you mean in your preferred dialect? Is this BrE or AmE? I say this because in the US (or at least in my experience) it's perfectly natural to omit the preposition here -- but I accept that it might sound ungrammatical to other English speakers.
    – Andrew
    Commented Nov 17, 2016 at 18:05
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    "Help" is a noun in your example. Sorry, I should have said complement to "need" (not "help"). Some would see the clause as a modifier of "help".
    – BillJ
    Commented Nov 17, 2016 at 19:18
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    @BillJ I see what you mean: who's helping whom? As written, it says We need you to help us let ourselves know. The sentence would be better written We need you to help by... As written, though, the NP headed by the gerund is the object of in, and that preposition phrase is a modifier of help. The noun often takes in +verbing, but I don't know of a term specific to this kind of modifier. Commented Nov 17, 2016 at 20:32

1 Answer 1


This is a common pattern:

They could use some help setting up chairs for the assembly.

I could use some help changing the baby's diaper.

This pattern is less common and strikes me as occurring far more often in written communications than in speech:

Your help in arranging a meeting will be greatly appreciated.

It seems to me (just floating the idea tentatively) that in the second pattern, with the preposition, the help provided is facilitation: the person who helped to arrange the meeting did not actually do the arranging but provided assistance so that arrangements could be made. In the first pattern, without the preposition, the help is direct, the helper does some of the setting up or some of the changing of the diaper.

Perhaps the prepositional form is a kind of indirectness for the sake of politeness? Doesn't the second sentence seem more "froward"?

Your help in arranging a meeting will be greatly appreciated.
Your help arranging a meeting will be greatly appreciated.

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