I've reached an impasse with my girlfriend (both non-native speakers) about this sentence she used:

Maybe we didn't have enough of it for it to become routine again and help measuring time

To me, the use of "measuring time" instead of "measure time" after "help" is intuitively wrong. Alternatively you could use "help with/in measuring time". She insists that "help measuring time" is correct because "measuring" is an argument of help.

If possible can we get a syntactical explanation of this issue?

  • I like it as is. It is reasonably parallel with become routine again. Jan 18 at 20:14
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    As Tinfoil Hat said in their answer, the verb help takes only an infinitival (with or without to) as a complement in catenative constructions. One should not confuse such constructions with superficially similar ones where help is a noun, such as Since this is a pretty large house, I figured she could use help measuring so I offered. Jan 18 at 22:50
  • (The sentence Since this is a pretty large house…. comes from here.) Jan 18 at 23:08
  • 'Maybe we didn't have enough of it for it to become routine again' seems unnatural. What is 'it'? If there are different usages (one referential, one non-referential), this needs rephrasing. Jan 19 at 17:05
  • Does this answer your question? What is the function of MIGHT , HELP and LEAVE here? ['Help is a catenative verb that may be followed by a bare infinitive (leave) or a to-infinitive (to leave).'] Jan 19 at 17:09

1 Answer 1


Help is a catenative (“chaining”) verb that is followed by an infinitive, where the to marker is optional:

Maybe we didn’t have enough of it for it to . . . help measure time.

Some catenative verbs are followed by an infinitive, others by a gerund, and still others by either (with or without a change of meaning).

The non-native speaker will need to memorize. Here’s a list: Verbs Followed by Gerunds and Infinitives.

  • Here is another helpful list of catenative verbs, classified by what kind of complement they take. Jan 18 at 22:45
  • In its classification of catenative verbs, CGEL says (p. 1229) that help belongs to class 2Ai: 'catenative verbs appearing in both simple and complex constructions, to-infinitival but not gerund-participial, and plain-complex, with ordinary object' (where help gets an annotation '(B)', for 'bare', meaning 'bare infinitival', meaning that to is optional). Jan 18 at 23:17

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