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What is the correct way to use infinitive after the verb help: with or without to?
The particle to is notwrongin this sentence, but it is unnecessary. I would recommend against using it.
The phrase to understand can be interpreted as a special case of the infinitive; a kind offuture infinitive or impersonal future tense. In that context, the first sentence means, essentially, please help me develop an understanding of this (in the future). While that may be technically correct, it adds nothing to the meaning of the sentence.
To add some weight to my argument, theCOCAlists 142 entries for help me understand versus only 18 for help metounderstand. The results are similar for other constructions involving help me … versus help me to ….
I think that the confusion stems from the way youmustuse the infinitive in other cases, for example: I want to understand this, or I am trying to understand this. In these cases, the particle is an absolute neccesity.
the to might not BE wrong but it sure feels wrong to me. Id strongly recommend not using it with help me … .
@Mr. Shiny and New: I agree. It feels like a stumbling block when reading the sentence.
While in case of help to is merely redundant, with negative words it tends to reverse the intended meaning. He stopped smoking is obvious. He stopped to smoke – he stopped doing whatever he was doing, and began smoking instead.
Helpis a special verb in that way – thetois usually dropped from an infinitive when it is modifyinghelp. This form of infinitive is called thebare infinitive:
The bare infinitive is used as the main verb after the dummy auxiliary verb
, or most modal auxiliary verbs (such as
Several common verbs of perception, including see, watch, hear, feel, and sense take a direct object and a bare infinitive, where the bare infinitive indicates an action taken by the main verbs direct object. So, I saw/watched/heard/etc. it
. (A similar meaning can be effected by using the present participle instead: I saw/watched/heard/etc. it
. The difference is that the former implies that the entirety of the event was perceived, while the latter implies that part of the progress of the event was perceived.)
Similarly with several common verbs of permission or causation, including
. So, I made/bade/let/had him do it. (However,
takes a to-infinitive in the passive voice: I was made
it. (The use of the to-infinitive with the verb help is also common.)
it? (Use of the to-infinitive following why is also common.)
The bare infinitive is the dictionary form of a verb, and is generally the form of a verb that receives a definition; however, the definition itself generally uses a to-infinitive. So, The word
The bare infinitive form coincides with the present subjunctive form as well as the imperative form, but most grammarians do not consider uses of the present subjunctive or imperative to be uses of the bare infinitive.
Two hyperlinks to complete drɱ65 s answer: /bare-infinitive-2
+1. Note: It is, to my knowledge, acceptable to keep to in the case of help.
Yes; thats why I chose the word
. Wikipedia makes a note of that as well.
Does this explain whether The only thing one can do with a donut is eat it. is correct versus The only thing one can do with a donut is to eat it.?
Yes it does. The Wikipedia link was changed and the page updated, so I just re-linked the page properly. Now if you click on the link in my answer, you will come to the updated Wikipedia section on bare infinitives. Among the examples, it says As a predicative expression in pseudo-cleft sentences of the following type:
the rope to the beam. What you should do is
I think you may find there is also a difference here between US and GB English (a field worth writing a book about!). From experience, Id say help…to is more prevalent in British English and less common in the US. As a British translator (from German) Ive sometimes had help to + infinitive corrected to just help + infinitive by US editors.
The particletois whats called aComplementizer. It marks the verb following as an Infinitive (in English, thats necessary because English infinitive verb forms are identical with the present tense forms –to go, I go; to sit, I sit, except for the single verbbe(I am, to be). More on infinitive complementshere
Tois not a part of the verb that follows it, nor yet a part of whatever comes before it. Its aparticle; one of those troublesome little words likethe, that, of, at, etc. which English uses to decorate and distinguish its syntactic constructions, now that all its morphologys gone.
Infinitives get used in a variety of ways. One of them is as Complement clauses; these are Noun clauses that can function as the subject or direct object of a number of verbs. Its one of the principal ways we can form complex sentences. This particular chunk –helping their son win the fight– has a clause something like their son wins the fight as the direct object ofhelping.
As Daniel observes,helpis unusual in that it doesnt requireto, although it also doesnt forbid it. Both are grammatical, and theres no meaning difference; its just stylistic — that means some people will feel one is more formal than the other, but wont be able to agree on which one.
Different people, in different contexts, may find some distinction here, but not much.
Some other verbs that can omittobefore an infinitive object complement include
The plain form of the verb is preceded by the particletoin most instances where it follows another verb, so we would have to say, for example,Encouraging you to master Russianand not *Encouraging you master Russian. After the verbhelp, however,tois optional, and after some other verbs it is even disallowed. We cannot say *Making you to master Russianand we cannot say *Letting you to masterRussian*.
The particletois not really part of the verb at all. Not only is it not required afterhelp, it is not allowed at all following modal verbs, ormake, see, hearandlet.
Helping you to master Spanish. is the grammatically complete and correct way to write it. However, Helping you master Spanish. is also correct – thetocan be omitted as it is understood. This is permitted by grammar.
The passive forms, though queried by Quirk, are used.
I was helped clean shows 3 Google hits.
I was helped to clean shows 2950 Google hits. (at my space-time coordinates)
This is how I felt the breakdown would be.
While I have no problem in accepting both I helped clean and I helped to clean as equally grammatical, I feel the bias in favour (sorry, favor) of the omission of the infinitive-marker as superfluous might be dented a little when the no-toadvocates try to explain whytoseems to be considered necessary in the passive.
Are you saying you find I helped to clean the house grammatical? Cause it sure aint to me. I helped
to clean the house is all right, but without the object, the
is quite impossible in my idiolect. I was helped (to) clean the house is borderline ungrammatical to me too, though. Certainly not a phrasing I would ever in my wildest dreams consider using.
Grammatical is ill-defined. I would have no problem at all using/accepting in an essay I helped to clean the house. (Collins Cobuild English Usage:)
2. help as an intransitive verb
You can also use help as an intransitive verb, followed by an infinitive with or without to. If someone helps do something or helps to do it, they help other people to do it.
The taxi driver helped to carry the bags into the hotel.
Thetointo dois not a preposition, it is an infinitive marker. It marks the use of theinfinitive formof a verb.
With the phrase helping [person] X where X is some verb phrase (most likely an action), then the infinitive marker can be dropped.
This inflatable is helping you to swim
His instructor is helping him master Russian
His instructor is helping him to master Russian
Both are correct, although includingtois useless. Without it, the sentence is perfectly understandable.
Its usually thought to be American (without to) vs. British (with to) English, but both countries use them interchangeably, so this thought is false.
Your best bet is to leave it out – your sentences will be clear and easier to understand. If you leave it in, your sentence will still be correct, though.
There are cases when you cant placetoanywhere, like:
Sure, you can add many useless words to make the sentence as long as possible, so that you fall from the ladder before you finish saying it.
There are no useless words. Help me off the ladder is a possible shorter version of Help me to get off the ladder. The to get can be omitted.
Its not actually entirely false that its a British vs American thing: counting the instances of Help us [verb] versus Help us to [verb] in BNC and COCA suggests that the to is used 53% of the time in British English, but only 15% in US English. So while both dialects use both forms, there is a definite stylistic bias 🙂
I remember reading a good while ago (I think in a book published by the Readers Digest calledThe Right Word at the Right Time) that it is correct to usehelp towhen an inanimate object is providing the help, and merelyhelpwhen a person is providing the help. Im not at all sure how well that advice matches actual usage.
The glasses helped him read the blackboard vs. The glasses helped him to read the blackboard — inanimate object or no, I still prefer the version without to.
How about He was helped read the blackboard by having a new pair of glasses? Incidentally, I think TRiG has got it the wrong way round with the RD citation above, and they are certainly only mentioning some authors preferences, without themselves endorsing them.
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