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According to the American Heritage Dictionary,

Cannot help is used with a present participle to roughly the same effect as a verb form ending in -ing in a sentence such as We cannot help admiring his courage.

However I do not understand what the author refers to by "to roughly the same effect as a verb form ending in -ing".

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  • It would be useful to know the context, to know what "the same effect" refers to. I'm guessing it's a mistake and should be something like either "Cannot help is used with a present participle to roughly the same effect in a sentence such as We cannot help admiring his courage." or "Cannot help is used with to roughly the same effect with a verb form ending in -ing in a sentence such as We cannot help admiring his courage." ("as" is commonly used in comparisons but can also refer to a purpose or manner of usage.)
    – Stuart F
    Sep 10 '20 at 12:31
  • @StuartF to roughly the same effect [as cannot but + infinitive]? ahdictionary.com/word/search.html?id=C5073200
    – GJC
    Sep 10 '20 at 13:31
  • Perhaps they're struggling to explain the behaviour of the ing-form in this particular construction. Quirk et al did posit a gradience between deverbal noun (stole the painting/s) and true participle (she is/was painting). I'd just write << Cannot help is used with an ing-form (if of a transitive verb, with object) in a sentence such as We cannot help admiring his courage / smiling. >> Sep 10 '20 at 15:01

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