'Help Do Something', 'Help to Do Something', or 'Help Doing Something'? | Mastering Grammar

(Last Updated: 4 February 2024)

'Help Do', 'Help to Do', or 'Help Doing'

Help Do, Help to Do, or Help Doing: What Is the Difference?

When the verb help means 'to assist' or 'to make a situation better', it is not used with the -ing form of another verb. Instead, it is used with the infinitive (with or without to) in any of the following patterns:

help do something
help to do something
help doing something

help someone do something
help someone to do something
help someone doing something

Let's have a look at two sets of example sentences:

Chris helps clean the toilet every day.
Chris helps to clean the toilet every day.
Chris helps cleaning the toilet every day.

Chris helps us clean the toilet every day.
Chris helps us to clean the toilet every day.
Chris helps us cleaning the toilet every day.

The -ing form is only used with help in the expression can't/couldn't help doing something, which means 'can't/couldn't stop oneself doing something':

✅ The toilet was so smelly that they couldn't help feeling disgusted. (= They couldn't stop themselves feeling disgusted.)

The story was so funny that I couldn't help laughing. (= I couldn't stop myself laughing.)

✅ We can't help laughing every time we watch that funny film. (= We can't stop ourselves laughing.)

Examples from the Media

Zarrab said that he helped move "a few billion euros" from Halbank accounts for the Iranians, under the disguise of gold transactions. The Washington Post (2017)

President Jin Liqun says the bank's lending will help to cut the debt burden of borrowing countries, with membership having grown to 102 in four years. South China Morning Post (2020)

In the space of a pre-season, two trial games and three rounds of Super Rugby, Coleman has reminded the Waratahs they have a backbone. He has helped them earn back not only their fans' respect but their self-respect. The Sydney Morning Herald (2022)

They said her clips had helped them to think differently or prompted them to seek help: "It was like 'Gosh, actually these are real people, and they're finding it useful.' So, I can't really stop now." —The Age (2022)

Children given to moping or self-pity were told to cheer up, count their blessings, look on the bright side and generally buck up their ideas. I can't help feeling that even in 2022, there's something to be said for this approach. Daily Mail (2022)

When he first met her, she was with another guy, but he couldn't help noticing how gorgeous and friendly she was. Toronto Star (2017)


Choose the correct answer to complete each sentence.

1. I can't help to think/thinking that they should have bought a smaller house.

2. Can you help carry/carrying this bag?

3. Paul helped me to find/finding my keys.

4. The new measures will help boost/boosting morale among the workers.

5. We can't help to feel/feeling sorry for the poor kid.

6. I'll do whatever it takes to help you succeed/succeeding.

Answer Key 

1. thinking    2. carry    3. to find    4. boost    5. feeling    6. succeed

Real-World Examples of Misuse

1. Alternatively, you could say who I look after.
2. Help should be followed by improve in this instance.
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(Image Source: CLASSROOM Primary Good Writing Guide, Book 3)

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