Recently there appeared a question as to the difference between:

  • I can't stop laughing.

  • I can't help laughing.

and it appears there is a difference in them.

Is it proper to say that "I can't but laugh" can be used in place of both the examples?

  • 1
    I can't but X means that you have no choice other than doing X. It's similar in meaning, but the nuances are different. – Barmar Jun 26 '15 at 11:43
  • Barid, here are some tips to improve the quality of your question: please do some research and include it in your post. Also see this question @Avon found. Please be more specific in your query. – Tushar Raj Jun 26 '15 at 11:56
  • 'I can't stop laughing when ...' is often used colloquially as a paraphrase of 'I can't help laughing when ...', but of course it's ambiguous (and if used really strictly would make saying 'I can't stop laughing' difficult). – Edwin Ashworth Jun 26 '15 at 12:20
  • I have upvoted this question , but not sure why it was downvoted, I see that some comments were deleted. Maybe those comments had some "clues" about downvoting. – Prem Jun 26 '15 at 15:46

When you say "I can't but X", you mean either (1) that there is no other option or (2) that it is beyond your control or (3) that doing something else is not helpful.

(Eg 1) "I lost my wallet, so I have no money for taxis or buses. But I have to be in office soon. I can't but walk" , "I do not know cooking. I can't but eat out" , meaning : no other option for you.

(Eg 2) "Jokes by Chris Morris are always hilarious. I can't but laugh whenever I hear them" , "Wine is addictive. I can't but swig a bottle every night" , meaning : it is beyond your control to not laugh or not swig.

(Eg 3) "Instead of buying cake for $10, I thought I would save money by making it at home. I ended up spending $40. I can't but laugh at myself" , "I lost a lot of money in gambling. I can't but blame myself" , meaning : crying or cursing is not helpful.

Meaning (2) is related to "I can't stop laughing" & "I can't help laughing" because "I do not have control".

| improve this answer | |

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.