A native English-speaker corrected my "help observing" with "help observe" in a written text:

I provide a lens to help you observing the ants.

I cannot really see the rationale, as I would expect an action verb after "help". Can you please help me understand/understanding why this is not the case?

  • He was correct. "Help" requires a to-infinitival clause as complement, but not a participial one.
    – BillJ
    Oct 20, 2021 at 13:28
  • @BillJ It doesn't require a to-infinitival. It requires an infinitive - with or without to. "...to help you to observe..." and "...to help you observe..." are both possible.
    – rjpond
    Oct 20, 2021 at 13:31
  • 3
    It's 'help you [to] observe' (verb) or 'help you with observing' (gerund). Oct 20, 2021 at 13:31
  • Note, all this is with "help" as a verb. If it were a noun, "I need help observing the ants," then the -ing is appropriate. Oct 20, 2021 at 18:07
  • awesome, thanks for this! Special thanks to @AndyBonner, I could had easily made that mistake, too. Oct 22, 2021 at 13:07

1 Answer 1


After the verb help , we can use

either a bare infinitive (infinitive without 'to') : "I provide a lens to help you observe the ants."

or a 'to' infinitive (infinitive with 'to') : "I provide a lens to help you to observe the ants."

But we don't use present participle after it.

"I provide a lens to help you observing the ants." (incorrect)

If you want to use ‘observing‘ as a noun (gerund), you can use it as an object of a preposition :

"I provide a lens to help you in / with observing the ants."

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