Usage of ‘Help’ and ‘Help to’ in English Grammar

Both “help” and “help to” are correct and you can choose if you want to include “to” after “help”. There is no significant change in meaning.

Understanding the nuances of language is crucial for effective communication. One such nuance in English grammar is the use of “help” versus “help to.” While both phrases may seem interchangeable at first glance, subtle differences in their usage can impact the clarity and flow of your expression. In my experience, people use both “help” and “help to”.

Help or Help to 

When we use the verb “to help”, we have the choice of whether to include “to” or not. 


I am helping my children pay for college.

I am helping my children to pay for college.

I helped him cross the road.

I helped him to cross the road.

As you can see from the examples above you can choose to use “to” or not. It is a personal preference with no change in meaning.

Help and the bare infinitive

Usually in English when we have a verb following another verb we use a gerund(ing) or an infinitive(to + verb) for the second verb.

I tried to open the bottle. (The second verb “to open” is in the infinitive form)

I like playing football. (The second verb “to play” is in the gerund form)

The bare infinitive is when we use the second verb in the infinitive without the “to”.

I helped build the railway. 

Bare infinitives are usually used with modal verbs like “can”, “could” and “would” but also “had better” and “would rather”. You can read more about modal verbs here.  

Help or Help to – Is there a difference?

While there is no difference in meaning between “help” and “help to”, there may be some differences in how we use “to” after “help”. 

Some people say that there is a difference between American English speakers preferring to use the “to” whereas British English speakers prefer to omit the “to”. You can read more perspectives about this from Word Reference.

In my opinion, it is more of a choice regarding the rhythm and stress of the sentence. 

People decide to omit “to” when there is a neutral shorter sentence. The emphasis is also more on “help” than the action that follows.

She helped take out the trash.

When people use “to” with help, the stress can be on “to” and the action that follows.

My parents helped me to buy a house in Riverdale.

There often may even be a short pause before “to” while the person gathers their thoughts.

My parents helped me….. to buy a house in Riverdale.

Remember, there is no difference in meaning but there may be some possible nuance in emphasis. 

Help do or Help to do?

You can use either “help do” or “help to do”. There is usually an object(someone) after “help”.

I helped him do his homework.

I helped him to do his homework.

Both of the examples above are correct with no change in meaning. 

Help + ing or infinitive? 

We usually use “to help” with an infinitive or a bare infinitive. As discussed above, it is optional to use ”to” after “help”. There is one exception when you can use “help+ ing”.

Exception “can’t help + ing” 

The exception to using “help + infinitive” is when you use “can’t” before “help”.

I can’t help falling in love with you. 

You just can’t help eating all the chips, can you?

This is also the case with “need”.

Do you need help moving all of those boxes?

Do not use the “ing” form with help in other contexts.

Incorrect: You should help him moving all those boxes.

Correct:  You should help him to move all those boxes.

Does help need a preposition?

The verb “help” can be used with or without a preposition depending on the context and the specific meaning you want to convey. Here are some examples:

  • Without a preposition:
    • Can you help me?
    • I helped her move the furniture.
  • With a preposition “with”:
    • Can you help me with this problem?
    • I can help with the dishes.
  • With a preposition “to” (less common, and more formal):
    • She helped to clean the kitchen.
    • They helped to raise funds for the charity.

In the first example, “help” is used without a preposition to offer assistance directly to the person. In the second example, “help” is used with the preposition “with” to offer assistance with a specific task or problem. In the third example, “help” is used with the preposition “to” in a more formal or old-fashioned manner.

In everyday conversation, the most common usage is likely without a preposition or with the preposition “with”.