help

help verb.
Help is one of the oldest words in English, going back to the time of King Alfred (9c). It has two principal meanings in current English: ‘to assist’ (Can I help you?) and ‘to prevent’ (I can't help it). The connection between these two apparently unrelated sets of meanings lies in the use of help in the context of dealing with disease and misfortune, in which the interrelated notions of providing help and of preventing suffering are more clearly perceptible. (For a fuller account, see the OED entry, one of the most interesting and complex in the language.) There are three issues to explore with help, the first two connected with the ‘assist’ meaning and the third with the ‘prevent’ meaning:
1. cannot help but.
This use is illustrated by the example

• She could not help but notice that all the passengers on the bus were pensioners —S. Mackay, 1984.

The construction used here is common, and is a fusion of two other typical constructions: She could not but notice… and She could not help noticing…. It is preferable to use either of these constructions in more formal contexts, although the fused construction is common informally and is likely to become more so.
2. more than [or as little etc. as] I can help.
This idiom is illustrated by the examples Don't sneeze more than you can help and Sneeze as little as you can help. Fowler, in an uncharacteristically weak and rambling article (1926), found this construction indefensible and corrected the examples to Don't sneeze more than you must and Sneeze as little as you can. These emendations are unexceptionable in themselves, but correcting idiom on the grounds of logic is a futile exercise.
3. help + to-infinitive.
The construction help someone to do something (as in He helped me to dig out my driveway) has been shortened since the time of Shakespeare to help someone do something (He helped me dig out my driveway). Shakespeare used both constructions, omitting to when help is itself preceded by to:

• The day will come that thou shalt wish for me To help thee curse this poisonous bunch-backed toad —Richard III i.iii.247.

The reluctance to repeat to accounts for some but not all of the following modern examples, which are taken from several varieties of English: (to omitted)

• The purpose is as much to help the actors discover their roles as to work out cinematically-effective moves —Daily Telegraph, 1970

• I had helped her carry it to her bedroom —Garrison Keillor, AmE 1986

• Mandy helped him choose something for Claire —C. K. Stead, NewZE 1986

• When he is done he instructs Ria to help him pull the wire tight —S. Johnson, AusE 1990

Twice she had asked him to help her attach her stockings to her garter straps while she combed her hair or did her nails-fiction website, AmE 2005 [OEC]

• (to included)

• The levees were helping to aggravate the problem they were meant to solve —New Yorker, 1987

His words helped me to laugh and feel very pretty-fiction website, AmE 2003 [OEC]

• (to repeated) If a male employee asks for time off to stay at home with his sick wife to help to look after her and the kids, the affiliative manager agrees —Harvard Business Review, 1976

• She allowed Pearl to help her to stack up her hair —Iris Murdoch, 1983

• This scheme aims to help us to continue working later in our lives by eliminating age discrimination —business website, BrE 2003 [OEC].

There does not seem to be any distinction in preferences between AmE and BrE or the other major varieties of English.

Modern English usage. 2014.

Synonyms:

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Help — (h[e^]lp), v. t. [imp. & p. p. {Helped} (h[e^]lpt) (Obs. imp. {Holp} (h[=o]lp), p. p. {Holpen} (h[=o]l p n)); p. pr. & vb. n. {Helping}.] [AS. helpan; akin to OS. helpan, D. helpen, G. helfen, OHG. helfan, Icel. hj[=a]lpa, Sw. hjelpa, Dan. hielpe …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Help — is any form of assistance.Help may also refer to:* Help (British TV series), a comedy series * Help (Dutch TV series), a drama series * H.E.L.P. , an American television drama series * Help (video), a documentary video by Ximena Cuevas * Help (… …   Wikipedia

  • help*/*/*/ — [help] verb I 1) [I/T] to give someone support or information so that they can do something more easily Can you help me find my glasses?[/ex] Her brother offered to help her with her homework.[/ex] Her work involves helping people to find… …   Dictionary for writing and speaking English

  • Help ! — Help! (film) Pour les articles homonymes, voir Help. Help! Réalisation Richard Lester Acteurs principaux John Lennon Paul McCartney George Harrison Ringo Starr Leo McKern …   Wikipédia en Français

  • help — [help] vt. [ME helpen < OE helpan, akin to Ger helfen < IE base * k̑elb , *k̑elp , to help > early Lith sělbinos, to aid] 1. to make things easier or better for (a person); aid; assist; specif., a) to give (one in need or trouble)… …   English World dictionary

  • Help.gv.at — „Ihr Amtshelfer im Internet“ ist eine behördenübergreifende Plattform der österreichischen Bundesverwaltung. HELP.gv.at (kurz „HELP“) begann 1997 als Informationsangebot über Behördenwege für die Bürger und hat sich seither zu einer Drehscheibe… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • HELP.gv.at — „Ihr Amtshelfer im Internet“ ist eine behördenübergreifende Plattform der österreichischen Bundesverwaltung. HELP.gv.at (kurz „HELP“) begann 1997 als Informationsangebot über Behördenwege für die Bürger und hat sich seither zu einer Drehscheibe… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Help — (dt. Hilfe) steht für: Help!, Album der Beatles Help (Band), eine Schweizer Jazzband Help! (Lied), Lied der Beatles Help – Hilfe zur Selbsthilfe, deutsche Hilfsorganisation Help TV, deutscher Fernsehsender help – Das Konsumentenmagazin des ORF… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Help — Help, n. [AS. help; akin to D. hulp, G. h[ u]lfe, hilfe, Icel. hj[=a]lp, Sw. hjelp, Dan. hielp. See {Help}, v. t.] [1913 Webster] 1. Strength or means furnished toward promoting an object, or deliverance from difficulty or distress; aid; ^; also …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Help! — Studioalbum von The Beatles Veröffentlichung 6. August 1965 Label Parlophone / Capitol / …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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