aid / assist / help

There is no difference in meaning between these three words, but there are some slight differences in the way they fit in the sentence.

Help is the most common and most informal (aid and assist are both more formal). Aid is more commonly used as a noun, not a verb:

  • a hearing aid is a small electronic device that helps people with hearing problems to hear better
  • first aid is the initial medical care given immediately after an accident or injury
  • government aid is official help from the government
  • humanitarian aid is helping people who are suffering after a disaster, or suffering from disease, poverty, or war

    There is also a word aide (pronounced the same way!) which refers to a person whose task is to help – an assistant. A nurse’s aide, a teacher’s aide, etc.

    Now let’s look at the two verbs: help and assist.

    After help, we can use a verb with or without “to”:

  • He helped me understand the lesson.
  • Can you help us carry these books? or Can you help us to carry these books?

    In everyday spoken English, it’s probably more common not to use “to.”

    After assist, we must use in + -ING form of the verb or with + noun:

  • I’m happy to assist you in creating a website.

    I’m happy to assist you with your website.

  • This program assists people in finding a job.

    This program assists people with their job search.

    The noun form of help is also help, but the noun form of assist is assistance:

  • Thank you for your help.
  • Thank you for your assistance.

    Thank you for your assist.

  • I’m so grateful for all the help I’ve received from the team.
  • I’m so grateful for all the assistance I’ve received from the team.