I am getting confused at the usage of the phrase "couldn't help without."

For example,

"I couldn't help without answering the call"

Is this correct & what does this sentence mean?

1 Answer 1


It depends on what you’re trying to say. If you mean that for some reason you couldn’t avoid answering the call, then the normal construction is ‘I couldn't help but answer the call’.

  • 1
    But if you mean that in order to help you had to answer the call, the sentence is correct
    – mplungjan
    Commented Aug 21, 2013 at 7:56
  • 2
    Quite right. We can't help without knowing the context. Commented Aug 21, 2013 at 8:01
  • ...disgraceful. Commented Aug 21, 2013 at 9:06
  • I can't help but wonder what @EdwinAshworth means by his one-word comment.
    – J.R.
    Commented Aug 21, 2013 at 9:10
  • 1
    @J.R. The ellipsis is to show a follow-on from Barrie's dreadful (antiphrasis needed to salute dire puns and other witticisms) phraseology. My upvote endorses the antiphrasis. Commented Aug 21, 2013 at 22:58

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