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I'm a non-native speaker of English and the following sentence makes me wonder:

"I won't stay longer than I can help."

I've heard similar uses of "can help" in other contexts and they all sounded strange to me. Shouldn't we say :

"I won't stay longer than I can't help."

In the same manner, doesn't it sound strange to say:

"I'm not driving at night, unless I can help it"

Shouldn't one say "unless I can't help it"?

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    I think you've identified an illogical expression, along the lines of "I could care less" rather than "I couldn't care less". For "unless I can't help it", people use both "can" and "can't", and searching in Google books it seems roughly 50-50. – Peter Shor Aug 27 '14 at 15:54
  • It's not illogical. "The length of my stay won't exceed the length of time in which I am able to help."; "I'll be here as long as I can help; when I can no longer help, I will leave". – Dan Bron Aug 27 '14 at 15:57
  • @PeterShor: +1, although I will note that "I could care less" may be viewed as an elliptical rendering of "[As if] I could care less." – Robusto Aug 27 '14 at 16:02
  • @Dan Bron You're not just arguing against Peter, but against Kingsley Amis. – Edwin Ashworth Aug 27 '14 at 18:29
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No, one shouldn't.

If you can help it, you won't do it.

"I won't stay longer than I can help."

Maybe better is

"I won't stay longer than I can manage."

meaning

"I will not stay longer if I don't need to"

or alternatively

"I will stay longer if I do need to."

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