"Cannot help but" past perfect form

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skeptictoad

New Member
Italian
Hi everyone.

This is the sentence I'm working with:

"She could not help but think he was quite handsome"
(or, alternatively, "She could not help thinking he was quite handsome", doesn't matter really).

Is it possible to write it in the past perfect tense? I've been racking my brain but can't seem to find a solution.

Thanks
 
  • suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    That is the past tense of that phrase. The present tense is "She can't help but think he is handsome".
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    She didn't like the man much, but when she saw him at the party she couldn't help but think he was rather handsome.

    I knew that she had never liked the man much, but when she had seen him at a party she had been unable to prevent herself from thinking he was rather handsome.
     
    You could use "be able to stop oneself":
    "She had not been able to stop herself thinking that he was quite handsome / how handsome he was."
    It is not the same construction, but it means more or less the same thing, and the past perfect is then a possibility.

    (Crossed - great minds, velisarius!)
     

    skeptictoad

    New Member
    Italian
    She didn't like the man much, but when she saw him at the party she couldn't help but think he was rather handsome.

    I knew that she had never liked the man much, but when she had seen him at a party she had been unable to prevent herself from thinking he was rather handsome.
    Thank you velisarius, that's exactly what I was looking for.
     

    skeptictoad

    New Member
    Italian
    You could use "be able to stop oneself":
    "She had not been able to stop herself thinking that he was quite handsome / how handsome he was."
    It is not the same construction, but it means more or less the same thing, and the past perfect is then a possibility.

    (Crossed - great minds, velisarius!)
    Indeed! That's also a nice solution, thank you.
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    You could also paraphrase with "she had been forced to admit to herself...", which I personally prefer.
     
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