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In this sentence:

A market research and feasibility studies may be OF great help to succeed in business.

When do you exactly use this ''of'' in sentences? Sometimes I just include them in my sentences because it doesn't look/sound correct but, if I don't know the rules for it, it's probably inaccurate.

  • this is a quite vague question as there is a slew of usages of the word "of" (check merriam-webster.com/dictionary/of), Do you have an example of a situation where you don't know if "of" would be relevant or correct? – Mattias Aug 7 '18 at 10:03
  • Are you asking why may be great help is ungrammatical, or are you asking why a construction that uses of is used rather than one that doesn't? What alternative to your example sentence are you proposing? – Jason Bassford Aug 9 '18 at 2:39
  • @JasonBassford, I'm asking a construction why ''of'' is used rather than one that doesn't specifically in of help or of great help in sentences. No alternative just this topic. – John Arvin Aug 9 '18 at 6:40
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    Without an example of a sentence that doesn't use of, it's difficult to tell you why of is preferable to it. I could make up some arbitrary sentence without of, but I don't know if that would help you in any way. – Jason Bassford Aug 11 '18 at 3:18
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+50

"Of" is a preposition, a class of words used to express a relationship between two or more objects, or a thematic relationship between clauses in a sentence.

Some of these object relationships are temporal(relating to time) or geographical(relating to space or location). Some thematic relationships include origin or source relationships, destination or goal relationships and manner or quality relationships. (This is an incomplete list).

Temporal preposition examples:

"Children are the hope of the future."
"We must do better than we have done in the past."

Geographical preposition examples:

"I work in a building."
"Get me the largest cup on the table".

Origin relationship examples:

"The sound came from the car's exhaust pipe"
"The sound of the car was bad".

Destination relationship action examples:

"The package was sent to the house" "We will send a spacecraft to Mars"

Manner relationship examples:

"The bird sang in an energetic style"
"He bought a shirt made of good quality material"

To make this more clear, let us take your original example and see what function "of" is performing.

Market research and feasibility study may be of great help to succeed in business.

Which can be divided into pieces as follows:

[(Market research and feasibility) (study)] [(may) (be)] [(of great help) ({to succeed} {in business})].

"Market research and feasibility" is a noun (phrase) adjunct, that is a noun phrase used to describe another noun, in this case, "study", telling us what type of study we are talking about.

"Study" is a noun(in this instance), and is the subject of this sentence.

"May be" is a verb phrase consisting of the verb "be"*, and the adverb "may" which expresses possibility rather than certainty.

"Of great help" is a prepositional phrase modifying "be", indicating the quality that the study may possess is the ability to help (where "great" is a modifier of help indicating a large magnitude or degree).

"To succeed" is a prepositional phrase modifying "help", indicating the goal to which such help is directed.

"In business" is a prepositional phrase modifying "succeed", indicating the location where the success would occur.

*"Be" and its bizarre conjugations have multiple meanings, the one used here is the 14th definition given in the Oxford English Dictionary: "Indicating a quality or other distinguishing mark by which a person or thing is characterized, identified or described".

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    The original post has an error. "Study" should be changed to "studies". – Jasper Aug 8 '18 at 0:09
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    @Jasper That or it's missing an article before hand, e.g. "A market and feasibility study may be [...]" – Darael Aug 9 '18 at 17:58
  • @Jasper, what you say is true, but a) it is slight enough that I didn't notice reading the question, b) doesn't change my answer in any meaningful way, and c) even non-native English speakers can sometimes make errors, but their sentences still need to be understood. Do you want to be the one telling the native-speaker CEO that they have made a grammatical error, or do you want to understand what they are saying? (ALSO, thank you for the edit. One day I will make an answer on this site without including a typo or grammatical error). – sharur Aug 9 '18 at 19:16
  • Aside from repeating the original mistake, this answer manages to be technically correct while completely obscuring the underlying structure: to be + of + abstract noun is a set thing in English, meaning that the use, service, help, assistance, &c. is being provided. The thoroughness of the answer deserves upvotes but I'd still rather OP ticked Khalif's answer as more helpful to other English Language Learners. – lly Aug 10 '18 at 15:03
  • @lly: Thank you for your criticism; do you have specific suggestions for improvement? While I agree that that "be of" is a stock construction, I don't feel it is an idiom, but rather its meaning is developed from a combination of its component parts. Thus, I tried to answer the OP's actual question, and request for "the rules of it" in the broadest sense. Or in other words, my interpretation of the "underlying structure" is not "this is a be+of+X construction", but rather "this is a prepositional phrase" and I tried to explain that concept. – sharur Aug 10 '18 at 15:49
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I think the expression "be of help" or "be of use" is an idiom.

The explanation from the Collins Dictionary is:

be of help

phrase.

If someone or something is of help, they make a situation easier or better.

Can I be of help to you?

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    If there is an idiom, than I think that it is "be of" by itself (see for example "be(ing) of sound mind" or "be of good cheer". However, I don't think "be of" is an idiom as its meaning can be deduced from its parts, hence my answer (noting that part of the difficulty may lie in the myriad meanings of "be", especially for a non-native speaker). – sharur Aug 9 '18 at 19:11
  • @sharur Yeah, your post is of much less help to beginners than simply explaining the phrase in this way. It's a good gloss for the English Stack, though. – lly Aug 10 '18 at 14:58
  • @sharur Thank you for your comment, but I have to disagree with you on the meaning of "idioms." Idioms' meaning usually cannot be deducted, but that doesn't mean that you should exclude any expression from being idiom just because you can deduct its meaning from its parts. You can refer to Merriam Webster's definition of "idiom." – Khalif Aug 12 '18 at 11:50
  • @Khalif: fair enough, I could see "be of" as an idiom, using Merriam Webster's first definition. (I normally use the OED, do to having a copy of it, and it lacks the first definition; anyway, that wasn't the definition I was taught in school). – sharur Aug 13 '18 at 16:17
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I think you're comparing "being of great help" with "being very helpful". This is my assumption at least.

Imo,

  • "being of great help" is a property/state of the subject, and
  • "being (very) helpful" is the adjective qualifying the subject.

They both imply similar meaning, but I would use "(subject) being of great help" when I am appreciating the subject in its/their utility in achieving something.

"helpful" qualifies the subject like any other adjective (think, this car "is red").

So, in the end both expressions convey similar ideas, but "helpful" is a label on the subject, whereas "..of great help.." shows action more than "being helpful" does.

I hope this answer was...of help :)

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