In (the!) OLAD, it is written:
sb can (not) help (doing) sth = used to say that it is impossible to prevent or avoid sth.

If we use "cannot help" the mean of a sentence change, like:

I cannot help shutting my eye= I am coerced to shut my eye.

According to OALD, I think the above equivalent is right. But What if we don't exercise "not" right after "can"? For example, What is the tantamount sentence below?

I can help shutting my eyes =?

  • 'Can help' [doing something] is not usual, although we can say e.g. 'I can (or cannot) help myself' when faced with temptation. Jul 1, 2020 at 7:45
  • Coerced suggests that someone is making you shut your eyes. If you 'can't help shutting your eyes' it is usually because you are physically unable to keep them open. Jul 1, 2020 at 8:27
  • @KateBunting thanks, it is a good point. I wanted to say it is an internal force. In other words, my heart preclude me from that deed.
    – user115852
    Jul 1, 2020 at 8:43

1 Answer 1


"I am able to keep my eyes open" is comparable to the sentence above. "I can help shutting my eyes" is a valid but strange sentence construction that I don't think most people would use. "I can help shutting my eyes" means simply that one is able to avoid shutting his eyes, so any sentence that conveys that meaning is valid.

  • Dear Kevin, thanks for you attention. Indeed, I desire to say "I cannot eschew shutting my eyes on this facet of the matter" by means of "can (not) help". Could you help me?
    – user115852
    Jul 1, 2020 at 8:10
  • Is your question not asking what the equivalent construction of "I cannot help shutting my eye= I am coerced to shut my eye." for "I can help shutting me eyes" is? The equivalent construction is "I am able to keep my eyes open." Jul 1, 2020 at 8:23
  • "I can help shutting my eyes" does not mean that the speaker cannot close his eyes. It merely means that he is able to avoid closing them. Jul 1, 2020 at 8:24

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