I have seen the verb "help" used in these two ways

I have seen the verb “help” used in these two ways:
“he was helping him do the work”
“he was helping him to do the work”
“can you help Jhon find the car”
“can you help Jhon to find the car”

Which one is the correct, was is the difference?

Hi Richard,

Both versions are correct - you can use help + to + base verb or help + base verb.

There has been a tendency to shorten certain constructions and this is one of them.[YSaerTTEW443543]

TOEIC short conversations: Two colleagues talk about their current projects.[YSaerTTEW443543]

As general rule, use as few words as needed and as simple a sentence as needed to clearly express the intended meaning. So omit “to”.
But there is another potential problem with adding the “to”. In some sentences it can change or confuse the meaning.

‘I was helping him earn money.’ (he is the one earning money)
‘I was helping him to earn money.’ (suggests the possibility or even the probability that I am the one earning money)

So if you are helping him earn money, definitely omit “to”.

How can you be the one earning money when you are just helping somebody else (to) earn money? I don’t see any difference in meaning between ‘to help’ and ‘help’. If you want to say that you are the one earning money, you should say ‘I was helping him by earning money’. Or ‘I was helping him by earning money together with him’.[YSaerTTEW443543]

TOEIC listening, photographs: A parachute[YSaerTTEW443543]

Canadian means
I was helping him (in order) to earn money.

That said, I disagree with any sort of precriptive stance which says that you should always use the least number of words possible. In context I doubt that the addition of something like ‘to’ would be that ambiguous in many cases. For example:
‘I was helping him to do the work’ would be highly unlikely to mean ‘I was helping him (in order) to do the work.’
I’d be just as happy to use:
‘I was helping him to do the work’
as I would
‘I was helping him do the work’.

For me, there is often a slight change in nuance between the two:
‘I was helping him do the work’ - the work was being shared by us equally.
‘I was helping him to do the work’ - he was doing the majority, but I was helping him by doing some of it or helping him by explaining it to him/demonstrating how to do it by doing some of it/instructing him in doing it.

Hi Torsten,
My guess, Canadian45 meant the sentence could be interpreted as "I was helping him (in order) to earn money [for my own needs]’

I can’t honestly see how ‘I was helping him to earn money’ can be construed as meaning that the speaker (I) would be getting the money. Clearly ‘to earn’ must relate to the immediately preceding object (him).

Well, if you help somebody you usually do so for free, otherwise you should say: “I was working for him to earn some money”. You don’t say “I help my friend to earn money” if you are working for him for money, do you?[YSaerTTEW443543]

TOEIC listening, photographs: Administrative cubicles[YSaerTTEW443543]

My comment wasn’t really that necessary as Bev explained there would be no ambiguity using both expressions.

Torsten, I think you’re being too harsh in that respect. I can quite imagine, ‘I was helping him to earn money,’ being used conversationally when you mean that the job was his, but an arrangement had been made (either with ‘him’ or with a 3rd party) that if you did some of the work, you would receive a share of the earnings, so both of you would earn money from the venture.
I just disagree that ‘always use the least number of words you can’ should be some sort of a rule of thumb.

But: expanding it to "I was helping him to earn money for myself’’, would remove all doubts surely?

Yes, but only if it were necessary to remove all doubts. In many contexts there’s no reason to give it any consideration.
Context is king.

Eugene, without any further context that sentence is still ambiguous to me. Usually, when you help somebody you don’t earn money. Why make it so difficult? Why not simply say: “I was helping him with the point job to receive part of the earnings”?[YSaerTTEW443543]

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I was working with him to get a share of the money.
I was helping him so I could share his pay.
I was doing some of the work because he said I’d get paid for it…
You could spend forever arguing about all the possible ways of saying the same thing. That discussion will go round in circles, because there are so many options.

Yes, the sentence with “to” is still ambiguous; that’s why I said “suggests”. To me, the bottom line is that if you are helpiing him earn money (he is the one earning money), the “to” should be definitely omitted. That seems quite obvious to me.

I don’t think that the majority of native speakers English (especially from Europe and Australia) would think that ‘I’m helping him to earn money’ means that I’m one the one earning money.[YSaerTTEW443543]

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You’re welcome.

I take it you mean ‘ambiguity’? Well, I think the entire issue might have to do with the fact that many people in the UK and Australia put the ‘to’ before the infinitive because for some reason they are used to doing so. It’s a bit like saying ‘in future’ which is quite common in the UK while most Americans would say that it has to be ‘in the future’. So simply removing words might not always be the best way of making yourself clear. Now that I have tried to answer your question I’d like to ask you one: Why not use a different verb such as ‘work’ to avoid/remove ambiguity? Why does it have to be ‘help’ when it is usually associated with providing support a service for free? Or you trying to say that most Canadians would charge you afterwards when they say ‘I’m going to help you’?[YSaerTTEW443543]

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