I have a piece of sentence where the use of 'of' in 'has been of' make it difficult to understand and to use:

The sentence is:

"It is often argued that the act of sending a man to the moon has been of no benefits to the common people."

Could anyone explain it?

  • 1
    If something is useful, it is "of use". If something is beneficial, it is "of benefit". If something is helpful, it is "of help". If it is useless, not beneficial, or not helpful: of no use, of no benefit, of no help.
    – TimR
    Commented Feb 7, 2017 at 15:57
  • It looks like a typo. It should say of no benefit.
    – user230
    Commented Feb 8, 2017 at 1:53

3 Answers 3


Good question, Fida! I found this great answer on http://forum.thefreedictionary.com/postst152029_You-ve-been--a--great-help.aspx

Standard form is: countable: You have been a great help.

Uncountable You have been of help. You have been of great help.

You can't, in standard English, have the uncountable without a preposition. You have been help.


In the example sentence, "has been" is the present perfect continuous conjugation of "to be," and "of no benefit" is a prepositional phrase. Grammatically, it's the same construct as sentences like "The cat has been on the table again," or "She has moved across the street.

Also, it should say "of no benefit" rather than "benefits." Consider substituting the plural in my two examples. "The cat has been on the tables again" makes sense if there are multiple tables. But "has moved across the streets" doesn't make sense. I'm not sure, but I noticed that in this case, "benefit" is uncountable - we can use phrases like some benefit or little benefit - whereas benefits, again in this case, is countable, meaning it is expressed in integers.

  • 1
    I was interested to know the placement of 'of' before 'no benefit'. It is little bit different from my understanding. And why 'benefit', not its 'plural'!
    – Fida Hasan
    Commented Feb 7, 2017 at 7:12
  • @FidaHasan You are right, it should be "no benefits". The only singular number is positive one, even zero and negatives are plural. Commented Feb 7, 2017 at 7:14
  • 2
    @user178049 It should not be plural, benefit is correct.
    – user42526
    Commented Feb 7, 2017 at 15:25
  • @JamesP I would disagree with that, look at this answer Commented Feb 7, 2017 at 15:32
  • 3
    @user178049 That's not the same. You could say, "there have been no benefits", but in this case it is "of no benefit". books.google.com/ngrams/…
    – user42526
    Commented Feb 7, 2017 at 15:39

My Question was about the Grammatical Structure in place of the use 'of'. I think, I have got the structure of it as following; "be + of + noun (abstract)"

A form of "to be" followed by "of" and a noun is usually equivalent to "to be" followed by an adjective of similar meaning. It is an idiomatic use of an "of" phrase. Here are some other examples. to be of use = to be useful to be of help = to be helpful to be of importance = to be important to be of significance = to be significant to be of consequence = to be consequential to be of interest = to be interesting to be of assistance = to be helpful (because there is no word "assistanceful") to be of worth = to be valuable (because there is no word "worthful") to be of good quality = to be good with respect to quality (because there is no word "good-quality-ful")

In above example, "It is often argued that the act of sending a man to the moon has been of no benefits to the common people." It seems it should be "has been of no benefit to the common people".

This is simply the present perfect of "is of no benefit to the common people". "be of" is a substitute for "be" + an adjective, so the quoted expression is equivalent to "has not been beneficial to the common people".

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .