The verb 'to avail' is a useful word, though rather old-fashioned. It means 'to be of use, benefit or advantage', or, chiefly when used in the reflexive (see below), 'to make use of'. The stress in pronunciation falls on the second syllable, 'er VEIL', IPA: /ə ˈveɪl/. It is hardly current in present-day English. Because of this, perhaps, it is sometimes mis-used. There are two constructions in modern English.
- The verb 'to avail' is reflexive. 'To avail oneself of [something]' (~ 'to make use of') is the usual form. The logical object (what the speaker is really talking about) follows the preposition of. "Good students avail themselves of all sources of information"; "one should avail oneself of the facilities in the Centre".
- As a noun, avail mostly occurs in the set phrase, "to no avail", meaning, roughly, 'useless'. There is no 'of' in this phrase.
Do not confuse these two constructions.
- (An historical note: In older English, the verb could be used impersonally, with the construction "it avails him" meaning roughly 'it is of use to him'. Some translations of the Bible ask, "What shall it avail me?" where others have "What doth it profit?"; and elsewhere says "Yet all this availeth me nothing". This construction is now obsolete, but is to be found in older texts.
- It is also to be found with the archaic 3rd person singular inflection in the present tense, -eth. This is frequent in a quotation that has become something of a cliché: "Say not the struggle naught availeth" (the title of a poem by A. H. Clough, 1849), or, in more modern shape, "Do not say that it is not worth struggling".)