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I want to know the difference between these two items:

  1. She couldn't stop herself laughing.
  2. She couldn't stop herself from laughing.

I assume that No. 2 is wrong, but it seems right!

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Welcome to English Language & Usage. As it stands this question is incomplete. Please edit to show what research you did before asking an expert. Thanks. –  MετάEd Apr 1 '13 at 11:30

1 Answer 1

Both are grammatical. If there’s any difference, it’s that the first might be used to describe someone who is already laughing and couldn’t stop. The second, on the other hand, might be used to describe someone who was unable to refrain from laughing in the first place.

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This use of from is called "adversative", because it occurs with predicates like keep/stay/go/come/move/run (away) from, keep/take/bring/move X (away) from. The from is optional, as Barrie says, and it's entirely at home. But *She couldn't stop from laughing is ungrammatical, so you need an object in this construction. –  John Lawler Apr 1 '13 at 14:36
    
An Ngram for "stop (himself) (from laughing") ( books.google.com/ngrams/… ) shows that the version without either the pronoun or the 'from' is far more common than other variants. Stop catenates variously in its different senses: halt or cease: stop walking; (stop to rest not catenative); prevent or ban: stop (= prevent) someone fighting. "I had to stop myself from hitting him" sounds better than OP's '2'. –  Edwin Ashworth Apr 1 '13 at 18:51
    
Both the COCA and BNC have several records of stop from followed directly by the -ing form, and I think I'd be capable of using it myself. –  Barrie England Apr 1 '13 at 18:55
    
I think keep myself or restrain myself sound more natural with 'from laughing', though there's little logic as to why when 'I had to stop myself from hitting him' sounds fine to my ears. Perhaps it's the obligatorily punctive nature of hit as opposed to laugh. I had to stop myself from telling him. I had to stop myself from leaving. ?/*I had to stop myself from knitting. ?/*I had to stop myself from staying there. –  Edwin Ashworth Apr 1 '13 at 19:53

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