For many years members of that office had paid for the tea or coffee to which they helped themselves during the day by dropping money into an "honesty box".

I understand the meaning of the sentence, but could someone explain the grammar behind highlighted phrase? The wording seems kind of unusual to me.

1 Answer 1


It's perfectly normal. To help oneself to something is an everyday idiom, meaning to take something (often food, but not necessarily) for one's own use, not waiting for somebody else to serve them or give permission.

  • Is it grammatically correct to use "... or coffee which they helped themselves to ..." in this sentence?
    – Artem
    Commented Jan 20, 2020 at 21:05
  • 1
    Yes. In speech, a lot of people prefer this construction to the to which construction. Also, a lot of people would omit which, giving "or coffee they helped themselves to".
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Jan 20, 2020 at 21:12

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