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Can someone please exlain the usage of "attempt to" and "attempt at"

1. My attempt to drive an aeroplane has been successful so far.
2. My attempt at driving an aeroplane has been successful so far.

Whats the difference between two sentences. When do we use "attempt to" and "attempt at".

Thank You.
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Comments  (Page 2) 
CB's confusion is justified. This is a GMAT question that even I got stumped at. I picked attempt "at ratifying" while the correct answer is "attempt to ratify" and I was also wondering if there was any real difference between the 2. Any further clarification would help...
Naren
Do not listen to most of the other responses; the people do not know what they are talking about.

The difference is the same as any other verb partern. In English, some verbs are followed by a base verb, an infinitive, or a gerund. If someone were to write "an attempt at doing" versus "an attempt to do," it would be his choice. There is definitely no rule somewhere that says, "one has to use 'attemt at doing' instead of 'attempt to do.'"

In English, there is no academy to make such the rule. No where. Not in Great Britain, Canada, the U.S., Australia, nor anywhere else. Some dictionaries have teams of language specialists that advise given usages over others, while blogs and other media sources elsewhere have self-appointed authorities to suggest what they think is right and or wrong.

The best way to find answers to questions about usage is to consult unabridged dictionaries and, upon finding the entry word, to look at the example sentences of the entry word used in natural contexts. Such a dictionary will usually mean Merriam Webster's. The OED is not the best unabridged dictionary, though it is often miscited as the definitive record of the English language, because it is a diachronic lexicon, meaning that it looks into the history of our language more than defining the language from a contemporary perspective. This is why Dictionary.com is so popular a site. It has an opportunity to record the langauge that happens now, not three hundred years ago.

Also, stay away from Fowler's, yet again a popularized reference book by people who don't actually use the books they talk about. The internet will usually get you a lot further down the road than those to British references.

A very good dictionary for foreign users is www.audioenglish.net. Despite its name, it is actually a new-aged dictionary that focuses quite heavily on usage. There are not many dictionaries like it.

You will also find grammar references for foreign language students, but every one will vary on its explanations because, again, English is a language of conventions rather than academy. Hence, if you read or hear somewhere that "attempt to do" is used in some specific context while "attempt at doing" is used in another, what you are reading is probably someone's description assimilated from maybe ten or so citations out of some database. Maybe the result will be taken to mean that "an attempt at" is used in broadcasting English while "an attempt to" is used more informally. Neither is correct nor incorrect, and the more inclusive the analysis, the more the usage will show that either is accetpable and carries no difference in meaning or usage.

To learn more about the definition and usage of words, I suggest the Art and Craft of Lexicography, by Sidney L. Landau and for explanations on descriptivism versus prescriptivism, try A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language, Quirk. Ibid, English conventions vs academy.

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AnonymousDo not listen to most of the other responses; the people do not know what they are talking about. The difference is the same as any other verb partern. In English, some verbs are followed by a base verb, an infinitive, or a gerund. If someone were to write "an attempt at doing" versus "an attempt to do," it would be his choice. There is definitely no rule somewhere that says, "one has to use 'attemt at doing' instead of 'attempt to do.'" In English, there is no academy to make such the rule. No where. Not in Great Britain, Canada, the U.S., Australia, nor anywhere else. Some dictionaries have teams of language specialists that advise given usages over others, while blogs and other media sources elsewhere have self-appointed authorities to suggest what they think is right and or wrong. The best way to find answers to questions about usage is to consult unabridged dictionaries and, upon finding the entry word, to look at the example sentences of the entry word used in natural contexts. Such a dictionary will usually mean Merriam Webster's. The OED is not the best unabridged dictionary, though it is often miscited as the definitive record of the English language, because it is a diachronic lexicon, meaning that it looks into the history of our language more than defining the language from a contemporary perspective. This is why Dictionary.com is so popular a site. It has an opportunity to record the langauge that happens now, not three hundred years ago.Also, stay away from Fowler's, yet again a popularized reference book by people who don't actually use the books they talk about. The internet will usually get you a lot further down the road than those to British references. A very good dictionary for foreign users is www.audioenglish.net. Despite its name, it is actually a new-aged dictionary that focuses quite heavily on usage. There are not many dictionaries like it. You will also find grammar references for foreign language students, but every one will vary on its explanations because, again, English is a language of conventions rather than academy. Hence, if you read or hear somewhere that "attempt to do" is used in some specific context while "attempt at doing" is used in another, what you are reading is probably someone's description assimilated from maybe ten or so citations out of some database. Maybe the result will be taken to mean that "an attempt at" is used in broadcasting English while "an attempt to" is used more informally. Neither is correct nor incorrect, and the more inclusive the analysis, the more the usage will show that either is accetpable and carries no difference in meaning or usage. To learn more about the definition and usage of words, I suggest the Art and Craft of Lexicography, by Sidney L. Landau and for explanations on descriptivism versus prescriptivism, try A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language, Quirk. Ibid, English conventions vs academy.
Thank you for this post. It is best explanation of the "proper usage".

So far, from the posts above, I've seen 4 uses that vie for the idea of "preferred usage". These four uses are:

- attempt (n.) at + gerund. "His attempt at setting a record failed."

- attempt (n.) to + infinitive. "His attempt to set a record failed."

- attempt (v.) at + gerund. "He attempted at setting a record, but he failed."

- attempt (v.) to + infinitive. "He attempted to set a record, but he failed."

I accept that all these forms are grammatically correct. But what did not come through from the answers yet, is by what principle can we decide the meaning of these different (correct) sentences, if any differences are implied.

The best attempt at explaining the difference came through here:

For important or dramatic matters, you use attempt + infinitive. "The German attempt to conquer the Soviet Uniion failed". No English speaker would write "The German attempt at conquering the Soviet Union failed."

Analyzing the two sentences, I noticed that the first sentence tells us that Germany attempted to conquer the Soviet Union and failed. But the second sentence tells us that "conquering the Soviet Union" is a thing and that when Germany attempted it (not the first), they failed. Indeed, that is laughable.

So, from this observation I take it that when you use the gerund, you are referring to an action that is indeed ongoing and has been going on for quite a while. That action you are referring to is what is attempted.

Consider these two examples.

- The Soviet Union's attempt at landing on the Moon before the US failed.

- The Soviet Union's attempt to land on the Moon before the US failed.

In this case, the first sentence tells us that "landing on the Moon" is a thing, and that the Soviet Union achieved it later than the US. This is what we're told.

The second sentence tells us something different. It seems to say that both the US and the Soviet Union had spacecrafts deployed at the same time, and when it came to the landing phase, the Soviet Union didn't land before the US. Again, this is laughable. Presumably, they were never in each other's reach or vision on that fateful day.

From this, I take it that both uses of "to + infinitive" should be considered similar, but are quite different in meaning from both uses of "at + gerund".

The first is a general attempt that tries to achieve the addressed end (e.g., to fly an airplane), but the second considers that what is attempted is the part in gerund form, and it has attained its own associations (e.g. "landing on the moon"). Any clauses that are attached to the infinitive or gerund form, gain subtle difference in meaning from these different uses of either construction.

I could not find a better reference, so these are just my two cents.

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