‘Help do’ vs. ‘help to do’ vs. ‘help doing’ in English

by Jakub Marian

Tip: See my list of the Most Common Mistakes in English. It will teach you how to avoid mis­takes with com­mas, pre­pos­i­tions, ir­reg­u­lar verbs, and much more (PDF Version).

Both “help someone do something” and “help someone to do something” are acceptable. The form without “to” seems to be more common in everyday speech than the form with “to” (especially in American English), but both forms are common in formal writing:

He helped me move to London. (correct, more common)
He helped me to move to London. (correct, less common in spoken language)

Some learners try to combine the -ing form we can find in other phrases (such as “go doing something”) with “help”, but this is unfortunately not correct:

He helped me (to) move to London. (correct)
He helped me moving to London. (wrong)

When you use “verb+ing” as a noun expressing an activity with which something or someone help, it is possible to say “help in doing”, for example:

The department of education helped in developing new teaching methods. (possible)
[The department of education helped in the development of new teaching methods.]

Finally, there is one informal phrase in which we do use “help doing”, namely “cannot help doing”. If someone “cannot help doing something”, they cannot suppress the need to do it. For example:

I can’t help thinking about her constantly. = I must think about her constantly. I cannot stop thinking about her.

This idiom means the same as “cannot help but do”we could also say, “I cannot help but think about her constantly.”

By the way, if you haven’t read my guide on how to avoid the most common mistakes in English, make sure to check it out; it deals with similar topics.

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