I was wondering which of the following sentence is grammatically correct (British English preferably):

I could not help laughing. I could not help but laugh.

There is a similar question on this site but that does not explain the grammatical correctness of the above mentioned sentences. References are welcome.

  • You know, I was just wondering why German "auslachen" had no English cognate, and what it originally meant. It's literally to laugh out somebody, perhaps like knock-out, if it meant to ridicule and laugh somebody into the ground, or away, if you will; perhaps compare simply laugh out loud, rather G auflachen (lit. laugh up; cp cry out, speak up). Now this question comes along and I figure can't help but laugh can be rebracketed to be can't help ut laugh or the like. It would be mighty odd if that could help solve your question. *ut "out" is the Proto-Germanic reconstruction – vectory Nov 14 '19 at 18:45

From Oxford Learner’s Dictionary:

somebody cannot help (doing) something,

somebody cannot help but do something,


used to say that it is impossible to prevent or avoid something.


  • I can't help thinking he knows more than he has told us. He can’t help being ugly. She couldn't help but wonder what he was thinking.
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