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What is the difference in the meaning between "assist in" and "assist" ?

Suppose Kim went to a foreign country and lost Kim's wife.

1) The policeman assists Kim in finding Kim's wife

2) The policeman assists Kim finding Kim's wife

Does 1) sentence mean "Kim lost his wife. and Kim calls the police. The policeman arrives at Kim. The policeman is trying to find Kim's wife (Kim is not trying to find Kim's wife. Kim only waits at the police station for the police to come with his wife. )" ?

Does 2) sentence mean "Kim lost his wife. and Kim is finding Kim's wife. Kim does not find Kim's wife. and Kim calls the police. The policeman arrives at Kim. The policeman and Kim is trying to find Kim's wife " ?

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assists can be transitive or intransitive.

When it is transitive it takes a direct object.

They assisted the surgeon.

When it is intransitive, there is no direct object, but there can be a complement which presents the context of the assistance and shows the nature of their assistance:

They assisted in the search.

They, too, searched.

When it is transitive, it can take both a direct object and a complement which presents the context of the assistance:

They assisted the surgeon in the delicate surgical procedure.

The pattern is:

To assist with {some activity} intransitive

To assist in {some activity} intransitive

To assist {someone} {with | in} {some activity} transitive

The problem with your second example is that finding Kim's wife is not a good complement for assist since it is not introduced with an appropriate preposition, such as with or in.

Lacking such a preposition, the participle phrase finding Kim's wife is understood to complement Kim, identifying what Kim is doing:

They assisted Kim looking for his wife.

The statement above is grammatical, but because it gets interference from the assist with |in pattern, it is sub-optimal in its reduced form, that is, without who was. It would be better to say:

They assisted Kim, who was looking for his wife.

That is, they gave help to Kim. Their assistance might have been to join in the search, or it might have been to fix a flat tire on Kim's car. If you want to state unambiguously that they, too, took part in the search:

They assisted Kim in looking for his wife.

They assisted Kim with the search for his wife.

  • I feel something a little bit. Does "They assisted Kim in looking for his wife." mean "They assisted Kim + They assisted in looking for his wife" ? – user22046 Sep 1 '17 at 14:00
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    @user22046. They joined Kim's search and in doing so assisted him. They assisted Kim by searching. The context and nature of their assistance is given in the complement. "+" is a mathematical operator, not an English word, so it is not clear what you mean by it here. They are not doing two things, but one thing: they are joining in Kim's search and he is a beneficiary of their efforts. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Sep 1 '17 at 14:07
  • Does "They assisted Kim in looking for his wife" mean "They assisted Kim. What they assisted Kim was looking for his wife"? Does "in" in the sentence mean " What they assisted Kim " ? – user22046 Sep 1 '17 at 14:22
  • @user22046: The prepositional phrase introduced by in specifies the nature and context of the assistance provided to Kim. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Sep 1 '17 at 14:52
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Well, the first choice is correct, however your sentence:

  • The policeman assist Kim in finding Kim's wife

is wrong.

It ought to be like:

  • The policeman assists Kim in/with finding his wife

OR:

  • The policemen/police assist Kim in/with finding his wife
  • What is the meaning of "in" over there? I can understand the meaning of "in" in "a ball in the box". However, I rarely understand the meaning of "in" in sentences with "in ~ ing". I want to understand the meaning of the preposition "in" in "in ~ ing". – user22046 Sep 1 '17 at 12:02
  • Wel, it's simple. Like you say "Can you help me with doing my homeworks**?" In The same way you say assist someone in doing something. – Sina Sep 1 '17 at 12:10
  • I can not understand anything if it is explained in terms that I can not understand. I would appreciate it if you could explain it through an easy expression that I can understand. I rarely understand the meaning of "in" in sentences with "in ~ ing". I would appreciate it if you could explain it in a sentence without the phrase "in ~ ing". – user22046 Sep 1 '17 at 12:10
  • Alright, then please take a look at this definition, from the macMillan dictionary: macmillandictionary.com/dictionary/british/assist_1 – Sina Sep 1 '17 at 12:12
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    Well, sorta yes! However, like I menetioned earlier, your structure is wrong. You should use "Help someone do something" (without to). – Sina Sep 1 '17 at 12:29

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