5

I know that "help" is often used with the preposition "with". However, the preposition "on" can be used sometimes as well.

I googled some examples:

  • He came over from time to time for a little help on his homework from the developing geometricians.
  • The files you requested, my dear. Would you like some help on these files or some company for a while?
  • Where can volunteers help on the project?

Is there any difference between help with / on the homework / files / project etc.? When is "on" more appropriate?

4

Looking at n-grams, it seems that before 1910 "help on" was standard, and since then "help with" has rapidly become a lot more common. There seems to be almost no difference in usage frequency between British English and American English and I personally can't think of any instances where "help with" or "help on" can be used and the other can't. Sometimes "help on [an object]" might be a bit ambiguous because "on" might be taken to suggest that the help takes place on top of the object.

Do you want some help with the roof?

makes it clear that the purpose of the help has something to do with the roof, but can't be read to specify where the help takes place, whereas

Do you want some help on the roof?

could mean the same as the previous sentence, or it could mean that I'm offering to give help which will happen on the roof, but I'm not saying what the help is with (maybe I'd be helping to rescue a cat - so I'm helping 'on the roof', but not helping 'with the roof').

So (apart from possible ambiguity with 'on') I think they are more or less equivalent, but "help with" sounds a lot more natural in the present day. (Though I wouldn't be surprised if there is some regional variation with this).

  • Does this sentence sound idiomatic too, "Do you want some help on that box? It looks heavy."? – stillenat Aug 13 '15 at 21:07
  • @stillenat That doesn't sound right to me - maybe it's the same issue with "on the roof", but this sounds much less natural to me than "do you want some help with that box". – jfhc Aug 14 '15 at 12:43
  • @jfhc, in this statement, "please help me on this English language journey” -consider that as a prayer for persistence. That is, ON is more appropriate here isn't it? – John Arvin Dec 12 '18 at 13:08

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