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    #1

    What does these help-phrases mean?

    There are phrasal verbs like "can't help but","can't but", etc. What do they mean and would you name more of the group, thanks very much.
    Last edited by AUTOMOON; 27-Jun-2007 at 13:55. Reason: a grammar mistake

  1. bianca's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: What does these help-phrases mean?

    Take these examples:
    1. I can't but think.
    2. I can't help but think.
    3. I can't help thinking.
    The first ex. is, possibly, an elliptical c. from 'can't help but', common in spoken E, but I doubt it is widely accepted as correct language.

    In ex. 2 and 3, my question is: what's the but doing for you with an infinitive in (2) that a simple conjunctionless gerund doesn't do in (3), anyway? Some figured out that the more words you use, the heavier the so-called thought you're expressing. Also, I can feel a slight nuance difference between 2 and 3 - I can't pinpoint what it is, though.

    Ex. 3 is usually considered to be more correct than the wordier 2, language-wise.

    I couldn't help falling in love. ( no 'but'). - suggests helplessness??

    However, it is very common to hear:

    I can't help but yell at him.
    I couldn't help but cry.
    I can't help but proceed with the interview.

    I have a feeling that the last exs are more charged, emphasized. - (meaning: I had no choice but to yell / cry /...)
    Last edited by bianca; 28-Jun-2007 at 12:37.


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    #3

    Re: What does these help-phrases mean?

    I don't know about BE but "can't but + verb" is commonly heard in spoken English in the US.

    I have also heard (and seen, printed on a T-shirt) the construction "can't help but + infinitive." (The T-shirt says, "Can't help but to stare.") I certainly don't accept this as correct, but, well, there it is.

    [native speaker & writer, not teacher]

  2. BobK's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: What does these help-phrases mean?

    Quote Originally Posted by Delmobile View Post
    I don't know about BE but "can't but + verb" is commonly heard in spoken English in the US.
    Same in BE.

    Quote Originally Posted by Delmobile View Post
    I have also heard (and seen, printed on a T-shirt) the construction "can't help but + infinitive." (The T-shirt says, "Can't help but to stare.") I certainly don't accept this as correct, but, well, there it is.

    [native speaker & writer, not teacher]
    Terminology alert: until I did my CELTA course, I'd've used those words; but in the EFL world people refer to 'the bare infinitive' and 'the "to" infinitive'. I agree that 'can't help but + "to" infinitive' isn't acceptable.

    b


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    #5

    Re: What does these help-phrases mean?

    Thank you, Bob. See, that's why this "not a teacher" disclaimer is so important :)

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    #6

    Re: What does these help-phrases mean?

    Thanks the above replies, but I want to know what meanings each of them carries.THANKSSSSSSSS.

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    #7

    Re: What does these help-phrases mean?


  4. queenbu's Avatar
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    #8

    Re: What does these help-phrases mean?

    Quote Originally Posted by AUTOMOON View Post
    Thanks the above replies, but I want to know what meanings each of them carries.THANKSSSSSSSS.
    I would say it means 'I can't resist...' but I prefer to wait for an English teacher to answer. When you have been answered to your satisfaction I would like to add some questions of my own to this thread.- q

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    #9

    Re: What does these help-phrases mean?

    I hadn't noticed Casiopea's reply. It must have come in whilst I was writing my answer. So now, if Automoon is content with the answer, I'd like to ask something myself.
    I can't help thinking about it.
    I can't help not thinking about it.

    Both are correct, aren't they?
    Is there any difference in meaning? I don't see any difference.

    PS......999posts.......

  6. BobK's Avatar
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    #10

    Re: What does these help-phrases mean?

    Quote Originally Posted by queenbu View Post
    I hadn't noticed Casiopea's reply. It must have come in whilst I was writing my answer. So now, if Automoon is content with the answer, I'd like to ask something myself.
    I can't help thinking about it.
    I can't help not thinking about it.

    Both are correct, aren't they?
    Is there any difference in meaning? I don't see any difference.

    PS......999posts.......
    I've heard the version with the double negative, but I've always tried to parse it as NOT (NOT...) and decided it was mistaken if the result made no sense. In some contexts the double negative does make sense; there are some TV programs, for example, that I can't help not watching ... Big Brother, for example, or anything with 'Celebrity' in the title.

    b

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