Forums · General English Grammar & Vocabulary, Listening & Speaking · General English Grammar Questions
I tried to keep my eyes open.
The car did not seem to be working, so I tried checking engine but in vain.
What's the difference between them? For me the difference between "do an experiment" and "to attempt to do" is rather vague. Could anyone explain me that? Thanks in advance.
FandorinWhat's the difference between them?When you try to do something, you make an effort to do it. It may be difficult, so you may have to expend energy in the attempt to do it. When you try to do something, you may succeed, or you may fail.
I tried to lift the heavy box.
I tried to find my lost keys.
I tried to see over the fence by standing on tiptoe.
I tried to touch the ceiling by jumping as high as I could.
I tried to open the package without tearing the beautiful gift wrap.
When you try doing something, you do it with the intention of finding out what will happen when you do it. When you try doing something, you succeed. Your purpose was not to see if you would succeed or fail, but to see if your doing it advanced your cause, helped you to make some progress, or solved your problem. When you try doing something, you are trying to solve a problem.
The door was stuck shut, so I tried shaking the doorknob (to see if that would open it).
The door was still stuck shut, so I tried hitting it with a hammer (to see if that would open it).
The door was still stuck shut, so I tried prying it open with a crowbar (to see if that would open it).
The paper was on fire, so I tried smothering the flames with a blanket.
The paper was still on fire, so I tried pouring water on it.
-- The TV isn't working.
-- Try plugging it in!!!
-- The boss is being mean.
-- Try smiling at him more.
-- This coffee is too hot.
-- Try putting some ice in it.
Note the difference:
The policeman tried to catch the thief by running after him.
To catch the thief the policeman tried running after him.
Sue needed to borrow some money. She tried asking (to see what would happen eventually or lead to) or to ask (she attempted and failed) Gerry, but he was short of money too. Are both of them possible or just Ving form?
I tried reaching (just to see if I can) or to reach (to get some tea) the shelf, but I wasn't tall enough.
CalifJimNote the difference:
She needed to borrow money, so she tried asking* Gerry. (*not to ask)
(Failure to ask is very doubtful unless she has just had oral surgery and finds speaking very difficult.)
(Asking is a course of action worth trying. Maybe she'll get the money she needs.)
I tried to reach* the top shelf to get some tea, but I wasn't tall enough. (*not reaching)
(Failure to reach is not only possible, but not being tall enough ensures it.)
This one is a bit tricky. I think some speakers would accept tried reachinghere. Unfortunately for the learner, native speakers do not always hold strictly to the distinctions given in your textbook.
The policeman tried to catch the thief by running after him. He
To catch the thief the policeman tried running after him. He made an attempt to see what it led to and he run after him just as an experiment but with intention to catch him, didn't he?
In both cases, running was a means to catching; running was done for the purpose of catching. The main difference is this. In the first case, the policeman could have failed to catch the thief. In the second case, the policeman could not have failed to run. Therefore, he "tried to catch (by running)" and he "tried running in order to catch".
The same contrast happens here:
I tried to open the door by shaking the doorknob.
I tried shaking the doorknob [in order to open / to open / as a way of opening] the door.
Whether the door can be opened is in doubt, not whether I can shake the doorknob.
The boaters tried to avoid the rocks by rowing toward the shore.
The boaters tried rowing toward the shore [ in order to avoid / to avoid / as a way of avoiding] the rocks.
The rescue team tried to save the drowning man by throwing him a rope.
The rescue team tried throwing a rope to the drowning man [in order to save / to save / as a way of saving] him.
Again there is this complication: In the first statement of each of the pairs above, some speakers might accept the -ing form, but they will probably be less likely to accept the to form in the second of each pair.
Is it getting clearer?
I tried to keep my eyes close.
I tried keeping my eyes close to feel a tender touch of the wind.
I tried starting engine so that I can see whether it works or not. (to see in what it would turn)\
I tried pretending as if I were more young than the girl was sitting beside me.
I tried to avoid doing such a horrible thing.
Are the explanations required in this case?
If I say just I tried starting engine in order /I tried to start engine it doesn't make much sense and therefore it could be diffucult to judge about using one or another form, does it?
the engine but it refused to work. (I
I tried to keep my eyes closed.
I tried keeping my eyes closed to feel a tender touch of the wind.
I tried starting the engine so that I
I tried pretending
I tried to avoid doing such a horrible thing.
All OK as corrected.
If I say just
In many cases either the -ing form or the to form is possible. A speaker can say I tried starting the engine or I tried to start the engine. Only the speaker knows what is in his mind. In the first case, the listener may assume that starting the engine is not the ultimate goal, but that starting the engine is a means for reaching some other goal. In the second case, the listener will probably assume that once the engine is started, it's the end of the story.
You can't judge whether to use one form or another until you are clear about what is in your mind. In examples and posts we can add words to suggest which form is more appropriate, but in "real life" people do not explain everything in so much detail.
We use "could" here because of sequence of tenses?
Thank you for your explanation. You make learning English very interesting.
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