My auntie would never refuse anyone help if they need it.

Can you explain "anyone help"? I think it should be: "to help anyone".

  • Can you provide a source for this?
    – Varun Nair
    Mar 21, 2019 at 6:50
  • @VarunNair Page 158, question 6, ISBN:9787560017235
    – Y. zeng
    Mar 21, 2019 at 6:52
  • Refuse can be used intransitively (I asked to see her, but she refused), and transitively (...but she refused me). But it can also be used ditransitively (with direct and indirect object), as in ...but she refused me an audience. Mar 21, 2019 at 14:33
  • The transitive form ("refuse him", "refuse her own daughter", "refuse anyone") can be very expressive - it has a emphasis on the human relationship, one person denying another's request. The "refuse to help" has more of a focus on the action that is not being taken.
    – djna
    Mar 21, 2019 at 15:01

3 Answers 3


My auntie would never refuse anyone help if they need it.

Refuse is a verb. If you want to make it explicitly clear, without possibility of misunderstanding, you could say "refuse to give", but as it is, anyone fluent in English will understand the meaning without the extra "to give".

"Help" is the direct object, the thing which is "given", or "not given", in this case where we are using "refuse to give".

"Anyone" is an indirect object identifying the person to which the "help" is "given" (or not given, in this case.) "Anyone" is located in the customary place for an indirect object, between the verb and the direct object.

So this sentence is grammatical, and people fluent in English would not mistake its meaning.

As Y. zeng proposes, another way to say it would be:

My auntie would never refuse to help anyone if they need it.

Both are equally correct.


My auntie would never refuse anyone help if they need it.

is correct. You must notice that "anyone" and "help" are not together, as an expression. Actually, the structure is:

  • refuse
    • anyone => refuse anyone
    • help => refuse help

and not:

  • refuse
    • anyone help

A more "standard" way to say the same thing would be:

My auntie would never refuse to help anyone if they need it.

In this case, "help" changes from noun to verb.


My auntie would never refuse to offer help to anyone if they need it.

"Help" remains noun (as in the original version), but a new verb is introuced (to offer). This is the closest in meaning to the original question.

  • Why anyone help does not mean anyone helps her instead of she help anyone.
    – Y. zeng
    Mar 21, 2019 at 7:21
  • Good point, I extended the answer.
    – virolino
    Mar 21, 2019 at 7:25
  • I am curious for the reason of the downvote. Please provide an explanation.
    – virolino
    Mar 21, 2019 at 11:19

Here is the collocation from the Oxford Dictionary.

"[transitive] to say that you will not allow something; to say that you will not give or allow somebody something that they want or need synonym deny

The authorities refused permission for the new housing development.

He refused our request for an interview.

The judge refused her application for bail.

refuse somebody something They refused him a visa."

To refuse anyone help is the usage given above in the dictionary.

"To refuse to help anyone" is fine, too.

So, to refuse + indirect object + direct object is fine.

https://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/us/definition/english/refuse1refuse when it means deny

  • If I change you example slightly to The judge refused her leave to appeal, it seems to me this changes the more natural interpretation of the syntax from monotransitive (the thing he refused was her application, where her simply qualifies application), to ditransitive - he refused (to give) her something, that "something" being the indirect object leave to appeal. But there's plenty of scope for syntactic (but not necessarily semantic) ambiguity with such constructions. Mar 21, 2019 at 14:51
  • @FumbleFingers I am merely providing proof of concept for: refuse anyone [something], which means to deny. In practical terms here, the two things have the same meaning: his auntie never refused anyone help and his auntie never refused to help anyone.
    – Lambie
    Mar 21, 2019 at 14:59
  • The issue is [mono]transitive vs di/bitransitive. I'm inclined to parse your (her?) application for bail as the latter, but there are arguments on both sides for that one, as I pointed out. Mar 21, 2019 at 15:25

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