Which is correct?

Our mission is to help everyone touched by tragedy thrive.


Our mission is to help everyone touched by tragedy to thrive.

I know that technically help can admit the bare infinitive, but something about the presence of the intervening past participle phrase makes it strike my ear as incorrect. Thoughts?

  • 1
    Our mission is to help those touched by the tragedy thrive.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jul 2, 2018 at 21:40
  • Purely between your two examples (forgetting about rephrasing) I'd say your first is more natural. Commented Jul 2, 2018 at 23:04
  • The verb "help" does (for some speakers at least) permit a bare infinitival complement. But because of the amount of material between the matrix verb "help" and the subordinate verb "thrive", I would stick with the to- infinitival in this instance.
    – BillJ
    Commented Jul 3, 2018 at 7:51
  • It's not a question of grammar. Both are grammatical, both can mean the same. Dropping the to doesn't matter in syntax. However, the sentence reads better with it. It's because of the long noun phrase "everyone touched by tragedy". HTH.
    – Kris
    Commented Aug 2, 2018 at 8:35
  • It's not about participles or bare infinitives but about readability. To that extent, this Q belongs on Writing
    – Kris
    Commented Aug 2, 2018 at 8:38

2 Answers 2


Both are perfectly acceptable English.

Here are some examples of the construction help everyone/those+past participial+bare infinitive. The direct object of help is in brackets, while the second verb (the catenative complement of help) is in its bare infinitival form and in boldface.

In New York after 9/11 the support of family and friends continues to help [those left behind] cope with their loss. (source)
To work together to help [everyone affected by severe mental illness] recover a better quality of life. (source)

More generally, both the to-infinitival and bare infinitival versions are found when the direct object is long.

Some examples of such usage without to, again from published literature. These examples are different from the ones above in that those is followed by a preposition phrase (PP) rather than a past participial:

The central focus of the Block approach to process consulting is to help [those in the organisation or community] make better decisions based on their own resources and understanding of the situation. (source)
There are also heavier weights used to help [those with spastic/tremor problems] continue a task. (source)

And some examples of usage with to:

The effects of these high prices has really caused a lot of debate and discussion in Washington about what we can do to help [those particularly on fixed income and lower incomes] to meet their energy needs. (source)
The main goal of this book is to help [those who are in this sometimes thankless role] to design, modify, and optimize your backup systems. (source)
Then I'll offer eight keys to help [those of you with passive-aggressive tendencies] to find new ways to relate to your anger and to express your needs to others more directly. (source)



I think your instinct is correct, because everyone touched by tragedy is a longish phrase and has its own verb that could distract a reader from the wider context of the sentence. The presence of to provides a clue to help readers get back on track.

You want them to parse the sentence as

Our mission is to help [everyone touched by tragedy] thrive.

but they might see it as

Our mission is to help [everyone touched by [tragedy thrive]].

or even

[Our mission is to help everyone] touched by [tragedy thrive].

neither of which make any sense, so they would need to go back and think again. On the other hand, if the sentence was simply

Our mission is to help you thrive.

then leaving out the to would be fine, if slightly more informal than the other option.

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