I have a question regarding the proper usage of the word support. Do you say: I provide clerical support "to" the attorneys at this office -or- I provide clerical support "for" the attorneys at this office.

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I have a question regarding the proper usage of the word support. Do you say: I provide clerical support "to" the attorneys at this office -or- I provide clerical support "for" the attorneys at this office.

Writing
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At vero eos et accusamus et iusto odio dignissimos ducimus qui blanditiis praesentium voluptatum deleniti atque corrupti quos dolores et quas molestias excepturi sint occaecati cupiditate non provident, similique sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollitia animi, id est laborum et dolorum fuga. Et harum quidem rerum facilis est et expedita distinctio. Nam libero tempore, cum soluta nobis est eligendi optio cumque nihil impedit quo minus id quod maxime placeat facere possimus, omnis voluptas assumenda est, omnis dolor repellendus. Itaque earum rerum hic tenetur a sapiente delectus, ut aut reiciendis voluptatibus maiores alias consequatur aut perferendis doloribus asperiores repellat.

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Hmm this one is actually really, really, really tough. Is it considered a transfer or a benefit? I personally think that in this instance, "for" is the best choice. I'm hoping someone else will come along and help out here though, because this is one of those barely thought of grammar rules that isn't really taught in classes for native English speakers. Not because it shouldn't be, just because it, well, isn't.
This is a tricky one. To quote from the _MW Dictionary of English Usage_ . . . When "provide" is used transitively (that is, with an object, in this case "clerical support") to mean "to supply or make available," the recipient of the provision is frequently named in a prepositional phrase beginning with "for" or "to": . . . a discontent which has provided fertile soil for the agitator. A new Urban Service Corp providing public employment for unemployed youth. . . . it will provide nearly eleven-million units of electricity to people in rural areas. Provide schools and teachers to all children and illiteracy goes down dramatically. * * * All of which just confirms that it's either one or the other in your example. : / I'm not finding the distinction Laura refers to, having to do with whether this action can be construed as a transfer or a benefit. I'd be interested in hearing more about that. My ear is pretty good, but I find myself wavering between your two possibilities. I would have thought perhaps "to" the better choice, but neither of them sounds perfectly natural to me. Any chance you can rewrite as "I provide the attorneys in this office with clerical support"? That solves the issue, although without resolving the initial question. In the original sentence, quite apart from the preposition issue, "provide clerical support" itself sounds a little odd. What does it mean to "provide support"? It means, really, to support. Is there some other way to work in the idea that this is clerical support? What is "clerical support," what does it consist of? Is there any way to make the verb itself more precise, is what I'm wondering. That's generally a good move.
Redwood Girl, honestly, I found it in a few different online resources for ESL teachers. I couldn't find it anywhere else.

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Hmmm, but you make a good point: sometimes these clarifications are found only (or, at least, are more thoroughly explained in) resources for ESL speakers. I was looking only in the standard usage guides. Most had no listing for the issue. I was flummoxed because I didn't already know the answer to the question, and neither of the two possibilities sounded just right. I don't like when I don't have the answer to a question of usage. I'll have to explore this one further. Thanks!
I've checked the Oxford dictionaries Spanish-English/English-Spanish and German-English/English-German. Both shun the usage provide to and both endorse provide for
I don't think it's that straightforward though. The entry in the usage guide that I cited notes that either "to" or "for" might be applicable. Here's another example (just found at http://www.queensu.ca/writingcentre/ESLresources.html) -- The English as a Second Language program at the Writing Centre provides academic writing support to students whose first language is not English. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this sentence, which uses the construction "provides support to."
I agree. "The umbrellas provide shade for the guests." "The army provided blankets for the prisoners." but this feels more natural "He provided drugs to the prisoners."
I don't know I think it just depends on what sounds right. At least that's how I do it. lol He provided drugs to the prisoners. Sounds right. He provided drugs for the prisoners. Doesn't. At least to my ear.
Congratulations, JoEllen. You just broke the active members of the Writing group :P In all seriousness, go with Redwood's suggestion of altering the sentence if you are that worried. I'm guessing this is for a resume or a cover letter, so wanting to make sure your grammar is perfect is totally understandable. We'll probably keep trying to figure it out here.
I'm not broken. Just slightly worn.
For what it's worth, to my professional ear, "provide support for attorneys" sounds slightly more formal that "... to ..." But neither option sounds wrong.
I like for in this instance too.
But it would be nice if we could extrapolate *why* in some instances "for" seems to work better, in some "to" seems to work better, and in some perhaps either might work as well? Now I'm just plum curious. (And perplexed, as I said, that I haven't got an answer.)
Does it have to do with the nature of what is being provided? Does it have anything to do with additional qualification or modification? There's got to be some pattern, some logic, underlying our usage, even if it's working so low below the radar we are not aware of it.
Three more examples -- Together, these findings provide support for lexicalist grammars that accommodate noncategorical constraints. In this paper I provide support for a syntactic analysis of date expressions in spite of their at first sight idiosyncratic appearance. These same resources provide support for infusing grammar instruction throughout instructional units. * * * In these three cases (though this may not necessarily be the case for all instances of "for"), the use of "for" indicates something different with respect to the support. Here, we could not use "to." I wonder whether there are cases correspondingly where "to" works only and not "for"? But unfortunately, I have to dash. I'll check in later to see whether you all have arrived at some definitive conclusion. This one seems such a difficult one to research as well . . .
I think the difference between to and for in these contexts is an emphasis on benefit versus provision. So both are correct, and your choice is in what you want to emphasize. If you provide clerical support to the attorneys, there's a slight emphasis on you. If you provide clerical support for the attorneys, they are the kings of this particular sentence. The distinction in emphasis is subtle, but it's there. To me, this is a beauty of language. By substituting a word, you've subtly modified not the meaning of the sentence itself, but the feeling it gives you about this relationship. That's my reading, anyway. Ultimately, I'm fairly certain the two forms of your sentence are equally correct :)
Hmmm, very interesting. This gets back to what Laura was saying, I think, about the difference between transfer (provision?) and benefit. There seem to be other senses of providing support for (see three examples above) which stand outside this paradigm, indicating the nature of an outcome, either of an argument made or evidence presented. But for those cases where the group of us have been vacillating between the two prepositions, and where perhaps either could work, you make a good point. So often language is like this. Thanks for adding your insights!
By the way, it looks like provide to is a relative innovation in modern English over provide for http://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=provide%20it%20for,provide%20it%20to&year_start=1900&year_end=2000&corpus=0&smoothing=3
Interesting.

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