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couln't help somebody doing

English translation: couldn't help somebody to do something, or with something

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22:10 Sep 8, 2006
English to English translations [Non-PRO]
Art/Literary - Linguistics
English term or phrase: couln't help somebody doing
"I couldn't help my family's getting the harvest as I had back ache"

This sentence sounds odd to me. Should it be "...help my family get the harvest". Is the sentence correct?
prill
English translation:couldn't help somebody to do something, or with something
Explanation:
I couldn't help my family with the harvest, as I had backache.
I think this is what is meant. As it stands, it is ambiguous.
Rita's interpretation is also possible.

Selected response from:

Jack Doughty
United Kingdom
Local time: 06:35
Grading comment
Selected automatically based on peer agreement.
4 KudoZ points were awarded for this answer

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Summary of answers provided
3 +8couldn't help somebody to do something, or with something
Jack Doughty
4 +3agree with JackxxxLia Fail
4 +1help WITH my family's
jccantrell
4couldn't help somebody doxxxE2efour
3I couldn't help that my family had to get the harvestRHELLER


Discussion entries: 1





  

Answers


6 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +1
help WITH my family's


Explanation:
It does sound odd. One way of fixing it with a minimum of change.

jccantrell
United States
Local time: 22:35
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 31

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  RHELLER: this is definitely one option
5 mins

disagree  xxxLia Fail: the minimum change is FAMILY GET rather than FAMILY'S GETTING, as Prill has suggested
1 hr

agree  Ioanna Karamanou: with would indeed clarify it, and, contrary to Lia's comment, it couls still remain "getting" which is a noun here
7 hrs
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11 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 3/5Answerer confidence 3/5
couldn't help somebody doing
I couldn't help that my family had to get the harvest


Explanation:
another possibility is
I couldn't help that my family had to get the harvest (without me)

from context you should be able to know if his family harvested instead of him or without him

RHELLER
United States
Local time: 23:35
Works in field
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 59

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
neutral  Ioanna Karamanou: Possible (as you suggest, it depends on the context) but I'm inclined to think it is "without" vs. "instead".
6 hrs

neutral  Richard Benham: Very unlikely to be the intended sense.
7 hrs
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18 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 3/5Answerer confidence 3/5 peer agreement (net): +8
couldn't help somebody to do something, or with something


Explanation:
I couldn't help my family with the harvest, as I had backache.
I think this is what is meant. As it stands, it is ambiguous.
Rita's interpretation is also possible.



Jack Doughty
United Kingdom
Local time: 06:35
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 197
Grading comment
Selected automatically based on peer agreement.

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  xxxcmwilliams
3 mins
  -> Thank you.

agree  xxxLia Fail
50 mins
  -> Thank you.

agree  Anna Maria Augustine at proZ.com
5 hrs
  -> Thank you.

agree  Ioanna Karamanou: This is correct. It is not ambiguous at all. It may be strange or unconventional or grammatically "incorrect", but it is a fairly common structure here in the US, particularly down South. "Getting" is used here as a noun and is the object of the senten
6 hrs
  -> Thank you. You may be right, but if so, why does Rita Heller think it means something different?

agree  Richard Benham: Sorry, I wrote a note above without having taken account of your suggestion. I think "with the harvest" is by far the best option here.
7 hrs
  -> Thank you. That's OK.

agree  Mara Ballarini: I also think this is what prill meant
9 hrs
  -> Thank you.

agree  Adam Burman
12 hrs
  -> Thank you.

agree  Paul Lambert: It seems superflous now, but this is the best answer in my opinion.
14 hrs
  -> Thank you.
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1 hr   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +3
agree with Jack


Explanation:
There is an important difference between 'not be able to help' and the special expression 'cannot help oneself' (always negative), which some people confuse.

EXAMPLE 1
I couldn't help falling asleep = I was unable to prevent/stop myself from falling asleep.
In other words, there is no notion of 'helping' someone.
This expression is typically followed by a gerund, although there are other variants, generally meaning the same, i.e. unable to prevent oneself. See Google list below.

EXAMPLE 2 (yours)
I couldn't help my family's GET the harvest as I had backache/ I couldn't help my family with the harvest, as I had backache (Jack's interpretation).

I agree with you and Jack, this meaning is about 'ability to help', not about 'trying to stop oneself from doing something'

So I agree with both you and Jack, this is the only possible interpretation: I was unable to help with the physical task of getting the harvest becuase my back was bad.

If you take the other interpretation, it sounds like you were unable to prevent yourself from being unable to get the harvest with your family...a bit odd, surely? At best, a longwinded way of saying you couldn't do something.

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xxxLia Fail
Spain
Local time: 07:35
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 7

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Jack Doughty: Thank you for your support.
6 hrs

agree  Ioanna Karamanou: Lia, great reserching! Jack, i ran out of room above. Lia gives you ample explanation as to why Rita's intepretation is possible, but flawed. It would have to say "couldn't help my family's HAVING to get the harvest" to indicate that meaning.
6 hrs

neutral  Richard Benham: Your example 2 in just ungrammatical. I think "couldn't prevent" is the most natural interpretation of asker's sentence. Without the "'s" it would be better, though not brilliant.
6 hrs
  -> sorry, a typo, I meant 'family get' as the asker has indicated

agree  Mara Ballarini: I agree with Jack's answer and also with your explanation
8 hrs
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10 hrs   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5
couldn't help somebody do


Explanation:
A curious sentence indeed.
It is either a mistake (i.e. I couldn't help my family get the harvest in)
OR
I couldn't help the fact that my family had to get the harvest in [help my family's getting in is clumsy]

NB I have never heard anyone say <get the harvest> since the normal expression is <get the harvest in>

xxxE2efour
United Kingdom
Local time: 06:35
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
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