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I looked up the above-mentioned collocations in different dictionaries and still don't know how to use them properly. The question is not about the meaning "to be helpful", but when to use which.Can we use them interchangeably? Thank you.

Was he (any/a/of any/of much/ help to them?- No, he wasn't (a/much/any/of much/of any)help.

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Was he any help to them? (most common)
Was he much help to them?
Was he of any help to them?

All ask the question was "he" able to offer help. "Of any help", or "of much help" is used to ask if there was even a small bit of help provided where the expectation of the asker is there will be a negative answer.

No, he wasn't any help. (most common)
No, he wasn't much help.

are the replies for saying he was not able to help.

"Much help" is usually used in the negative "not much help", if someone was "much help", "he was much help" it would usually be phrased "he was very helpful".

  • So "was he of any help?" sounds ironically, right? Did I get it correctly?And the answer should always be negative.Do you say "he wasn't of much help? – V.V. Feb 2 '17 at 20:11
  • "Was he of any help?" would just be asking the question, the irony would depend on your tone of voice. Sarcastically, you might ask "He wasn't any help was he?" meaning you are expecting a negative answer, and follow with "Yeah, I thought he was useless." – Peter Feb 2 '17 at 20:15
  • isn't it much if any? Then it is a negative. "He wasn't of much if any, help. He did not really help at all. (I don't know where the comma goes, but someone will.) – WRX Feb 2 '17 at 20:22
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"Being a help" isn't really correct at all, so you can disregard that option. What I think you're having trouble with is the difference between being of help VS being (any, much, little) help. the former can be used by itself (e.g. "is there any way I could be of help?"), while the latter needs a describing word between be and help, such as:

"was he any help?" "no, he wasn't much help."

In an everyday conversation, there isn't much difference between the two; both are acceptable, so as long as you know how to use them, you should be fine.

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