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01 January 2013

Grammar: Can't Help But or Can't Help + -ING


Taken from Wikimedia Common:
Was Elvis right when he sang, "I can't help falling in love with you?" Should he have sung, "I can't help but fall in love with you?"

Here are the two commonly used patterns for the CAN'T HELP:

(1) cannot/can't help + ing (FORMAL)
Example: He cannot help teaching his students well

(2) cannot/can't help but + based form of the verb (IDIOMATIC / NON-STANDARD)
Example: He cannot help but teach his students well.


My suggestion:
"Can't help but" pattern is one of the most popular contentions in English grammar and many grammarians and linguists are still debating on this. If you have this kind of dilemma, I advise that you rewrite your sentence without using any of the two "Can't help" pattern.

Original sentence:  If he has passion, he can't help but teach his student well even if he does not have talent.
Rewrite: If he has passion, he will always teach his students well  even if he does not have the talent.


But then again, if the King already sang "I can't help falling in love," shouldn't we just bow and follow. After all, "we can't go on together with suspicious minds." Get it? If not, ask mom and dad.


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