Archive for October 28, 2010

grammatical expression: can’t help/couldn’t help

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Have you ever heard the old song “I can’t help falling in love with you”? Elvis Presley did the most popular version of it. Have you ever wondered what “can’t help” meant? Well, today that is what I’m going to write about.

The expression “can’t help” means that a person cannot control some kind of behavior that they do. So, in the case of the song, Elvis meant that he cannot control his feelings of love for the other person; he fell in love because he had no choice.

Here are some more examples:

You shouldn’t tease Rachel because of her acne. She’s a teenager, and she can’t help it if she’s got pimples.

Your uncle can’t help walking with a limp because his leg was injured in an accident a long time ago.

I got the hiccups during my exam, and I couldn’t help making a little noise.

I couldn’t help being late today. The trains were delayed for a long time because of an accident.

The first two examples use “can’t” because the situation which the person can’t control is still happening. The last two examples use “couldn’t” because the situation is now over.

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