I was talking with a French penpal. He said:

you're helping me to improve

Which, as you may have guessed, is a literal translation from French. So I corrected him, and told him that using "to" isn't correct in English. But, now, I wonder:

you're helping me improve

Could you explain what construct it is?

My initial guess is that "help", here, is acting as a double object verb: "me" would be the indirect object, but:

  1. I can't find "help" in this list of double object verbs. I've tried other pages too, with no luck.
  2. "Improve" can't possibly be a direct object.

Furthermore: it seems "help me to improve" is used more frequently than "help me improve". Now I'm really confused. Is "help me to improve" correct, then?

  • 2
    +1, but that being said, "you're helping me to improve" sounds completely fine to me – hunter Sep 12 '16 at 21:32
  • 1
    Either form of infinitive is acceptable after help. It's a "special" verb! See the link in Max's comment or this one at our sister site ELU. – P. E. Dant Reinstate Monica Sep 12 '16 at 22:21
  • He should be correcting you. His sentence uses the infinitive marker “to.” You’re helping me to improve. “are helping” is a transitive verb phrase that take an object, and in this sentence the infinitive phrase “to improve” is just that, a noun, and direct object of the verb. All you did with yours is omit the marker “to” which is perfectly fine; it’s often left out in a sentence: I’ll help you clean the kitchen. = I’ll help you (to) clean the kitchen. Angela let the cats play in the garage. = Angela let the cats (to) play in the garage. [Continued] – Arch Denton Sep 13 '16 at 0:47
  • An infinitive phrase can act like a noun, adjective, or adverb, depending on how it is used in the sentence. Learn about infinitive phrases: grammar-monster.com/glossary/infinitive_form.htm || grammar-monster.com/glossary/infinitive_phrase.htm – Arch Denton Sep 13 '16 at 0:48

Either is correct when the sentence is as shown; however, if the sentence includes what the improvement is with, I definitely prefer not having the infinitive marker:

You're helping me improve. You're helping me to improve. You're helping me improve my French.

But usually not

You're helping me to improve my French.

... unless the help is ostensibly with something other than improving the French, but the reason for that help is to indirectly improve the French.

Even in the sentences provided, to me, the version with "to" feels more formal, and carries a slight connotation that the help is more than just with the improvement, or is accidental or incidental in some way.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.