I've read this from Merriam-Webster's Advanced Learner's Dictionary.

avail: help toward reaching a goal

The word "toward" confuses me. Why doesn't the author use "for" or "in"?

avail: help for reaching a goal

avail: help in reaching a goal

The underlying question is what's the difference between "toward," "for" and "in" in this context.

Thanks in advance.

1 Answer 1


Unfortunately, prepositions don't translate easily between languages: you need to know how a particular preposition can be used for each verb in the target language. In English, some prepositions can have twenty or more different meanings. Yes, that does sound like a lot of work, but that's the way it is.

toward is perfect because it can mean getting closer to a goal (Oxford dictionary, meaning 1.1).

for is not appropriate: while some of the other meanings seem plausible, its meaning is to the benefit of when used with help. (Oxford dictionary, meaning 3).

the hearing aid was a great help for my mother

in works nicely because, when used with a verbal noun (reaching is a verbal noun), it means as an integral part of (an activity) (Oxford Dictionary, meaning 8).

  • 1
    this is better than my "because it is" answer :)
    – WendyG
    Commented Mar 6 at 12:23

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