Can't Help [Verb]ing

How to use the expression "can't help [verb]ing" correctly

This is an entry on my list of Common Errors in English Usage. Visit the main page for direct links to additional entries.

Although “can’t help but” is a common expression, it is technically considered a double negative. (But has a negative meaning in this sense because it emphasizes what is not or what is lacking.) Use a gerund (an “-ing verb” acting as a noun) without but instead:

can’t help but wonder

can’t help wondering

Related Resources

Common Errors in English Usage: Errors in diction and idiom commonly made by native speakers of English

List of Common Errors in English Usage (PDF): Printable version of the complete list

Common Grammar Errors: A list of common errors in grammar (topics like subject-verb agreement and parallelism) as distinct from usage

List of Common Errors in English Usage: PDF version

© 2006, 2008, and 2019 C. Brantley Collins, Jr.