+0
Hi,

I was just looking at the usage of "attempt" with the two prepositions "at" and "to" and I couldnt find any thing on net which could make myself clear on the subtle difference in the usage of these two words, if there is any.
Here is an example..

1) Charles Lindbergh, for his attempt at a solo transatlantic flight, was very reluctant to have any extra weight on his plane, he therefore refused to carry even a pound of mail, despite being offered $1,000 to do so.

2) Very reluctant to have any extra weight on his plane when he attempted his solo transatlantic flight, Charles Lindbergh refused to carry even a pound of mail, despite being offered $1,000 to do so.

I prefered sentence 1st over 2nd. But somebody said that in the first "Attempt at" is unidiomatic and thus 2nd one is correct and 2nd is the answer in the book.

Could you please explain how come "attempt at" is unidiomatic? Is the because of "for"?

Regards,
Rahul
+1

Well, first of all, these sentences are very different, in the first attempt is a noun (his attempt) and in the second it is a verb (he attempted).

an attempt to is far more usual than an attempt at

  • an attempt to 91.700.000 usages
  • an attempt at 4.170.000 usages

but we cannot compare the two because attempt at is used with an object and attempt to with a verb

  • an attempt at something
  • an attempt to do something

However, as a verb to attempt at must be considered very rare, thus a grave mistake

  • to attempt to 25.400.000 usages
  • to attempt at 41.700 usages only (to attempt something is more normal)

From what I've said, you can't compare attempt to and attempt at whatever combination you take, two as nouns, or two as verbs. However, if you compare an attempt at and to attempt to I don't know if anyone could say what is more usual.

It is possible that an attempt at is, these days, seen as too aggressive as in the BBC news Arson attempt at flower show site (An attempt has been made to set fire to the main marquee at this year's Shrewsbury Flower Show.) or New York Times This is an attempt at extortion. I've made a small analysis for you and I have to admit that an attempt at is found, if not directly, then in some kind of foul environment, grave situation, harsh difficulties... Example, an attempt at dialog (a situation of war)...

If it is so, then your book should explain it better. From my point of view, the Lindberg's attempt was so revolutionary that it deserved a construction an attempt at. It needed a lot of courage and lunacy to go for it.

Whatever, I do not see anything wrong or unidiomatic in an attempt at, it is just a matter of style (unless your book had something totally different in mind).

+0
There is nothing unidiomatic in 'an attempt at'.

Cheers
CB
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Comments  
The Trumpet-Major by Hardy, Thomas - Chapter 27
hedges , and a rough attempt at mending the way had been made by throwing down huge lumps of that glaring material in heaps , without ...


Mary Marston by MacDonald, George - Chapter 29
miserable attempt at combining fancy and fashion , and , in result , an ugly nothing . " I see you don ' t like it ! " said Hesper , with a mingling of ...


Simon the Jester by Locke, William J. - Chapter 5
but with an attempt at a smile . I took both hands and looked into her eyes - - they are brave , truthful eyes - - and through my heart shot a great pain . ...


Middlemarch by Eliot, George - Chapter 78
both in mockery of any attempt at revived fellowship . But she said nothing , and at last with a desperate effort over himself , ...

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Thanks for the replies!

Could you please explain why one should prefer 2nd over 1st?

Regards,
Rahul
As mentioned in the above, they are quite different: noun vs. verb.
Think about that first.

My quotations only cover 1) (noun).
ElcidThanks for the replies!

Could you please explain why one should prefer 2nd over 1st?

Regards,
Rahul
The only reason I see:

1) Charles Lindbergh, for his attempt at a solo transatlantic flight, was very reluctant to have any extra weight on his plane(,) he therefore refused to carry even a pound of mail, despite being offered $1,000 to do so.

This comma (,) separates two very distant sentences. Look the next solution, it is very nice if you really separate them.

Charles Lindbergh, for his attempt at a solo transatlantic flight, was very reluctant to have any extra weight on his plane. He, therefore, refused to carry even a pound of mail, despite being offered $1,000 to do so.

2) Very reluctant to have any extra weight on his plane when he attempted his solo transatlantic flight, Charles Lindbergh refused to carry even a pound of mail, despite being offered $1,000 to do so.

This one is fine and you cannot separate the sentences because the second one is in a form of adverbial (as a manner or reason clause, or simple seen as a loooooong adjective with an adverbial function)

[Being/Because he was] very reluctant to have any extra weight on his plane when he attempted his solo transatlantic flight, Charles Lindbergh refused to carry even a pound of mail, despite being offered $1,000 to do so.

That is all I see.
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