I have a question whether I should use the article before a certain phrase.

When you are describing someone from a well-off family who started a business without their help, which can you say, "without help from his family" or "without the help from his family"?

He launched his business without help from his family.

He launched his business without the help from his family.

My guess is that you need the article because this is a particular kind of help (help from his family), but I am not sure about this.

  • 3
    I suggest "without any help from his family" or "without the help of his family." Jun 30 at 12:03

There are a few options, and some can be slightly emphasised:

  • without help from
  • without any help from
  • with no help from
  • without the help of

Here is the order in which they are commonly preferred (if you click on the image it will be enlarged):

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Although NGram finds instances of without the help from, it is very rare and I wouldn't recommend it.

One more NGram shows you what prepositions are the most commonly used with both variants, without the help and without help.

Note: with no help is the strongest negation which would emphasise the exploit of launching the business alone.

  • Yes, and "without the help from his family" sounds unnatural, as if a non-native speaker hasn't quite understood the (admittedly difficult) use of the definite article. Jun 30 at 12:47
  • Ngram is misleading, as there are other constructs with the same word sequence, and this answer does not explain why "the" is grammatically incorrect here (which it is). Jun 30 at 13:01
  • @DJClayworth Though very uncommon, some people do use it, and Ngram searches in books that were published. So I wouldn't completely dismiss it. Some think of it as meaning "without the help [he could have received] from". That would be grammatically acceptable. I am not advocating for "without the help from,", I am just saying it is rarely used and that it is better to avoid it.
    – fev
    Jun 30 at 13:10
  • "Without the help from" can be perfectly natural, just not in this usage. As in, "Without the help from his family, he never would have successfully launched his business."
    – Kevin
    Jul 14 at 13:43

The most natural phrase in this case is without help from his family. You would not use the because the type of help is not specific (it could be financial but does not strictly have to be). If you want to emphasize how gutsy he was you can use an intensifying adjective like any as others have suggested. (Mentions don’t seem to work - sorry).

  • As this NGram shows, article-less without help from his [family] comes a very poor second behind without the help of his [family]. In this exact context, I don't think it's meaningful to consider the "specific type" of help that might be involved, beyond the obvious fact of it being help that comes from his family. Jul 14 at 12:00
  • Actually, this is right. Ngrams proves nothing at all. help like wealth is a mass noun. However, a little more explanation would help, but it doesn't deserve a downvote. I prefer to get good advice without a grammar explanation than poor advice with one.
    – Lambie
    Jul 14 at 12:10

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