break down crying/to cry

sunyaer

Senior Member
Chinese
1. "He couldn't help but broke down crying."

2. "He couldn't help but broke down to cry."

Are these sentence correct and natural?
 
  • lucas-sp

    Senior Member
    English - Californian
    Coolie, sunyaer, I believe, is asking about the structure "can't help but do something." Your sentence is correct, but besides the point.

    Sunyaer, the structure goes "can't help but + bare infinitive." So you would have:

    He couldn't help but break down crying / in tears / and cry.

    The only part that shows past tense is the "can" verb.
     

    JustKate

    Moderate Mod
    Sunyaer, there are problems with both your sentences, and neither one is idiomatic, but before we can help you we need to know what you're trying to say. Is it:
    He couldn't help but break down and cry. (That is, he was unable to stop himself from breaking down and crying.)
    He couldn't help, so he broke down and cried. (That is, because he couldn't help, he started to cry).

    Or did you have something else in mind?
     

    lucas-sp

    Senior Member
    English - Californian
    I don't know - Kate saw the same ambiguity as you did! The question seemed clear to me, but it obviously isn't.
     
    Sunyaer, there are problems with both your sentences, and neither one is idiomatic, but before we can help you we need to know what you're trying to say. Is it:
    He couldn't help but break down and cry. (That is, he was unable to stop himself from breaking down and crying.)
    He couldn't help, so he broke down and cried. (That is, because he couldn't help, he started to cry).

    Or did you have something else in mind?
    sunyaer, I think you need to answer this question. (Both Chinese and Korea people are always having great trouble in using 'can')
     

    sunyaer

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    He couldn't help but break down and cry. (That is, he was unable to stop himself from breaking down and crying.)

    Or did you have something else in mind?
    This is what I wanted to say.

    He couldn't help but break down crying / in tears / and cry.
    Any difference between "He couldn't help but break down and cry" and "He couldn't help but break down crying"?
     

    lucas-sp

    Senior Member
    English - Californian
    I don't think there's a difference between the two. Just like English speakers don't think of "Go and find out!" or "I'm gonna run to the store and buy shampoo" as separate actions, the "break down and cry" doesn't seem markedly different from "break down crying."
     
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