I have a question about the "to" usage in the English. So, instead of "Can someone to help me?" we are saying "Can someone help me?" but I never understood why we are doing it in such way.

Also the same with this:

Can you to play football with me? - incorrect
Can you play football with me? - correct

But why? Could someone explain me this please?

  • You should definitely learn more about modal verbs - things like 'can', 'must', 'should', etc - they have rather non-obvious rules and it's easy to make a mistake using them.
    – SF.
    Commented Aug 17, 2017 at 12:27
  • Btw I want also to ask the rules about modal verbs apply only for the verb after the modal verb or for the whole sentence ?
    – BoSsYyY
    Commented Aug 17, 2017 at 12:50
  • @BoSsYyY: They apply to verbs connected to the modal verb. "I can't walk or run, but as you see, I'm standing in place just fine." Here "walk" and "run" are both connected to "can't" but "standing" is apart, in a separate clause of the sentence.
    – SF.
    Commented Aug 19, 2017 at 5:02

2 Answers 2


Modal verbs are followed by the plain form of verb. So the verb cannot be preceded by 'to', or be attached with -ing, and -ed suffix.

This is rule is not applied to the entire sentence. The verb that should be the plain form is the verb that's 'helped' by the modal verb. You can identify this verb by paraphrasing it with a wh-cleft construction. For example,

He can't {say/to say} he {like/to like/likes} me.

Paraphrase it to...

What he can do is say he likes me.

The verb that follows the is is the verb that should be in the plain form.

  • 2
    I'm a native english speaker and I don't understand your example!
    – NeilB
    Commented Nov 14, 2019 at 23:43
  • @NeilB It was a typo. Should be "can do". This example is awkward because it randomly came into my mind. Commented Nov 16, 2019 at 9:12

"To" is a preposition that can be used to say many things. You can use it to indicate:

  • A goal [As in your question]
  • A direction of movement
  • A place of arrival.

So, your question:

"Can someone help me [with this thing, now]?"

Yes they can...

"Can I get someone to help me [tomorrow]?"

Yes you can... TO is indicating a goal you wish to achieve - you getting someone to help you in the future.

"Can you play football with me ?"

Yes I can...

"Can I get someone to play football with me?"

No I can't, because they have all gone home! Again TO indicates my desire [goal].

To also plays a role when we want to indicate that a verb is an infinitive, basically, a verb with the word "to" in front of it.

  • to be
  • to have
  • to hold
  • to sleep
  • to dream

When you use an infinitive verb, the "to" is a part of the verb, it is not acting as a preposition in this case. Also, the verb is always just the verb, you cannot conjugate it in anyway, you cannot add: ...ed, ...ing or ...s on the end.

You’ll often use to when you want to indicate a relationship between words, like possession, attachment, and addition.

  • You get attached to people,
  • You have things that belong to you.

To is also used to indicate a range or a period of time, like when you say it will take you five to ten minutes to finish something - meaning any amount of time between 5 and 10 minutes, 7 for example - you just don't know at the moment.


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