a. The doctor couldn't help him having headaches.

Does that only mean

  1. The doctor couldn't prevent him from having headaches.

or could it also mean

  1. The doctor couldn't reduced the intensity or the frequency of his headaches.


Many thanks.

  • 4
    Could you list where you read or heard this and give a little more context? Aug 16 at 21:28
  • 2
    Did you write the sentence "The doctor couldn't help him having headaches" yourself? It does not sound like something a native speaker of English would say. Aug 17 at 1:01
  • 1
    Cannot help is mostly used of being unable to prevent oneself from doing something, not another person. "I can't help feeling sorry for him." It would be more natural to say "The doctor couldn't stop him from having headaches". Aug 17 at 8:25

1 Answer 1


Just the first. For the second you could say the doctor couldn't help his headaches.

  • Thank you both so much. I thought it was a common way of using 'help'. I am sure I have heard sentences like that one, but I can't remember when or where. I think Ethan's reply basically covers everything.
    – azz
    Aug 16 at 23:07
  • 1
    For the avoidance of ambiguity, the doctor couldn't help with his headaches. Aug 17 at 3:04

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