I am trying an English quiz. Which is correct:

  1. I called to ask Mary for help.


  1. I called Mary to ask for help.
  • Did you create this example, or is it from a published text? Is there any other context?
    – Adam
    May 11, 2015 at 15:31

2 Answers 2


They're both correct. Use whichever sentence communicates the meaning you have in mind.

  1. I called to ask Mary for help.

    • You called someone—probably Mary, but perhaps not.
    • Why did you call? To ask Mary for her help.
  2. I called Mary to ask for help.

    • You called Mary specifically.
    • Why did you call? To ask someone (probably Mary) for help.

Both sentences leave something unknown, but without further context, most people would assume that the unknown in each case is Mary. Unless there's context to suggest otherwise, the sentences are roughly equivalent.


Both sentences are valid, but I have a feeling they want you to chose the second one.

The second sentence can be parsed a little easier:

I called Mary [to ask for help].

The first puts a phrase between the verb called and the reason for calling:

I called [to ask Mary] for help.

Does the test really ask which is "correct," as you do in your question? If so, I believe this is one of those cases where the test makers are overstating things a little bit.

I did searches on Google News, where I first asked for:

"called * to ask for help"

and it returned plenty of hits, like:

They called 911 to ask for help
She called her parents to ask for help

Then I checked for:

"called to ask * for help"

and found some more hits, like:

His mother had called 911 to ask police for help
I was in our apartment studying for an exam when Hayling called to ask Patricia for help

I'm not sure I can label either one of these as "incorrect."

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