bare-infinitive vs. to-infinitive [ help, help to ]

stenka25

Senior Member
South Korea, Han-gul
There is really tricky problems in identifying the subtle differences between seemingly similar sentences like the below.

(a) Joe helped Mary make a pizza.

(b) Joe helped Mary to make a pizza.

In one book, it says that an expert named Bolinger says (a) is immediate assistance and (b) is mediate assistance because 'bare-infinitive' in (a) - make - means 'coincidence' with the verb 'help' and 'to-inf' in (b) -to make- means 'future.'

What I want to know is

1. Do you natives really feel that way?

2. If not, please read this.

This is what I think. These two sentences has little, if any, differences between themselves. Because I believe language doesn't have any pre-decided rules.

If people pre-decided 'bare-infinitive' should be used in 'coincident' context and 'to-inf' in 'future' sense, so we should use 'bare-inf' in the sentence like 'Mary made her husband clean the bathroom,' HOW this idiom -Money makes the mare to go- is possible and still is used?

I mean, if there was a rule that prevented the use of 'to-inf' with causitive verb 'make' how was the idiom possible?

So I think people used 'to-inf' in the first place and then as English require complex nuances, there emerged 'bare-inf' with other nuances.

What do you think of my theory?
 
  • nzfauna

    Senior Member
    New Zealand, English
    I believe that the meaning of your two sentences is the same, however, I agree with Setwale Charm that formal/business/academic etc writing would use the "to". It is also not uncommon at all to use the "to" in ordinary and colloquial language, spoken and written.
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    The sentences mean the same. The theory is unconvincing. The question about the idiom can be addressed by stating that idioms often do not correspond to the same patterns as general usage. To discuss a particular idiom as an example of consistency or inconsistency with normal usage is not helpful.

    I have only two comments about the idiom presented (Money makes the mare to go). I've never heard it. It sounds very unidiomatic in AE though BE speakers may have contrasting views.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I'm not familiar with "Money makes the mare to go" either; but I see from google that it does exist, both with and without the "to".

    Stenka25, in older versions of English it was standard to use the to-infinitive after make, where today we would have the bare infinitive. In the King James Bible, for example, we have He maketh* me to lie down in green pastures.

    *= he makes
     

    Sun14

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Hello, my friends,

    The book Communicative English tells the reader that in this case we must use "to":

    A bare infinitive can be used only when the one who helps (i.e.) performs part of the helping work or does the helping work jointly with the person being helped.

    e.g. The alarm clock was invented for the purpose of helping us to wake up in the morning.
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    Is the alarm clock example from the book, Sun? I don't think it's a very good example because the alarm clock wakes us up, rather than "helps us wake up".

    My grand-daughter helps me (to) make a pie. (It's something we do together.)
    A clock helps us to keep track of the time. (A clock is useful for this purpose.) I prefer to use the "to infinitive", but I prefer it in #1 as well. I don't think there's any difference - but maybe without "to" we emphasise "helps me in the making of" and with "help to" we emphasise purpose.

    Have you checked the previous threads Loob mentioned? (Post #4?)
     

    Sun14

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Is the alarm clock example from the book, Sun? I don't think it's a very good example because the alarm clock wakes us up, rather than "helps us wake up".

    My grand-daughter helps me (to) make a pie. (It's something we do together.)
    A clock helps us to keep track of the time. (A clock is useful for this purpose.) I prefer to use the "to infinitive", but I prefer it in #1 as well. I don't think there's any difference - but maybe without "to" we emphasise "helps me in the making of" and with "help to" we emphasise purpose.

    Have you checked the previous threads Loob mentioned? (Post #4?)

    It is from the book. Do you agree with the rule given by the writer? I notice the thread in #4, but since the writer gives a concrete rule, I was wondering whether there is indeed any difference.
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    I agree with suzi (post #2) that there's "next to no difference", meaning that if you really want to search for a difference you will find one, but don't expect native speakers to be aware of or to follow such a "rule".

    The version with "to infinitive" sounds less casual to me.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Hello Sun
    My alarm clock helps me wake up.:tick:
    My alarm clock helps me to wake up.:tick:

    In your original sentence, I slightly prefer the "to" version, but that's for reasons of rhythm, not because of any differences in meaning. I think the distinction your book is drawing is imaginary, I'm afraid:(.
     
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