Can I be of Assistance?

A student who was learning English wrote:

Can I be assistance you?

This is an error. It is wrong. Anybody who heard this mistake would probably understand but it is a grammar mistake.

In grammar words have categories which are called “parts of speech“. It is important to understand the parts of speech:

Parts of Speech

The main parts of speech are noun, verb, adjective, adverb.

“Assistance” is a noun and “assist” is a verb. The correct way to make the request is:

Can I help you? (Verb)
Can I assist you? (Verb)
Can I be of assistance? (Noun)
Can I be of help. (Noun)

Help and Assistance

“Help” and “assistance” are nouns which mean the same thing. English has many parallel words like this where two words have roughly the same meaning. “Help” is a Germanic word which is similar to the German word and “assistance” is a Latin word. English is a mixture of German and Latin and other languages too.
Words with Latin origins like “assistance” are more formal and academic than words with Germanic roots like “help”. A native speaker would probably say:

Can I help you?

In an informal conversational situation.

An employee might say:

Can I assist you?

in a formal or professional setting.

An Assistant is a Person

Another student who was learning English wrote:

I worked as an accountant’s assistance.

This sentence is grammatically correct. It is correct but it is not natural. The natural way to say it is:

I worked as an accountant’s assistant.

An assistant is a person.

High level executives sometimes have a personal assistant to organise and help them with their daily tasks. In the past the word secretary was used for this type of work but the phrase “personal assistant has become more common. Language is always changing.

Do you have a personal assistant?
Have you ever worked as a personal assistant?

Writing is Good for You

Tell us about your experience in the comments s section below. Writing out a description of your ideas and experiences will help you to improve your English. Here are some more questions:

Some More Questions

Has this page been of assistance?
Has this page assisted you?
Has this page been of help to you?
Has this page helped you?

Write a sentence containing one of these patterns in the comments section below.


Learn more by following the links:

Adjectives and Verbs – Help
Understanding Grammar

Present Perfect Tense
The Future of Work and Employment

Learn more about Nouns

Listening Practice

Help your Friends with these Easy Listening Lessons

Lessons with Verb Phrases

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