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I know it is incorrect to say, "They helped to her" and that it should be, "They helped her", but why is the word "to" not needed? And yet the word to is in this sentence: "They helped to get her free." Why is that?

  • In German, "her" would be in the Dative (indirect object) case, which is often indicated in English by to, This is true only of the German verb helfen, afaik, though there may be other such verbs. – John Lawler Mar 12 '15 at 20:49
  • Either of these is fine: "They helped get her free" versus "They helped her get free". However, they mean different things. – tchrist Mar 12 '15 at 20:53
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Because help (like want and force) takes a direct object for the person or actor and optionally an infinitive clause with to.

[That is a more detailed version of because it does, some form of which is the whole of the answer to almost all questions about why languages are the way they are].

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help takes the direct object without any preposition.

help is used with the preposition to then it is followed with the verb.

Here is the sentence with the direct object and the verb:

He helped her to feel the pleasure.

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