“Try to + V” vs. “try + Ving”

Do you ever feel confused about the difference between “try to + V” and “try + Ving”? Try reading this post and see if it helps. I’ll try to explain everything clearly.

When you try to do something, you make an effort, and you hope you will be able do it. Maybe you will be able to do it, and maybe you won’t.

  • Sorry I’m late. I’ll try to be on time in the future.
    (I hope I can be on time, but I can’t be sure; maybe I’ll be late again.)
  • I’m trying to find my keys. Have you seen them anywhere?
    (I hope I can find my keys, but I can’t be sure; maybe I won’t find them.)

When you try doing something, you just do it. Maybe it will have the effect you want, and maybe it won’t.

  • I have a headache. I’ll try taking some Panadol.
    (I’ll take some Panadol. I hope it will make me feel better, but I can’t be sure; maybe it won’t help.)
  • A: I don’t understand this word.
    B: Have you tried looking it up in a dictionary?
    (You can look it up. I hope that will help you understand it, but I can’t be sure; maybe it won’t help.)

Compare these pairs of examples. What’s the difference?

    • I tried to open the window, but it’s stuck.
    • I tried opening the window, but it’s still hot in here.
    • I try to go jogging every morning, but sometimes I don’t have time.
    • I’ve tried going jogging every morning, but I still haven’t lost any weight.

In the sentences with “try to,” maybe I’m not able to do the action. I wanted to open the window, but I couldn’t. I want to go jogging every morning, but sometimes I can’t.

In the sentences with “try + Ving,” I do the action, but maybe I don’t get the result I wanted. I opened the window, but it didn’t make the room any cooler. I went jogging every morning, but I didn’t lose weight.

Often we use “try to” to talk about a problem we want to solve and “try + Ving” to talk about possible ways of solving it. You can give people advice by saying “Have you tried…?” or “Why don’t you try…?” with Ving.

  • A: I’m trying to fix my computer, but I don’t know what to do.
    B: Have you tried turning it off and on again? Sometimes that works.
    A: Of course I’ve tried that, but it still doesn’t work!
    B: Why don’t you try calling technical support?

  • A: I’ve been trying to improve my English, but I’m not making any progress. Do you have any ideas?
    B: Well, have you tried taking a class at a language school?
    A: Yes, I’ve tried taking classes, but it didn’t help much. My teacher’s pronunciation was pretty bad!
    B: Maybe you should try studying with a native speaker, then.
    A: I’ve tried doing that, too, but my American teacher couldn’t explain grammar. I’ve tried to find a foreign teacher who understands grammar, but it’s just impossible!
    B: I think you should try signing up for a class at Eton Royal English School. You’ll find just what you need.
    A: Really? Okay, I’ll try that!

Eton Royal English School
伊敦皇家英語
彰化市民族路150號
Phone: (04)727-2177
E-mail: eton.changhua@gmail.com
Facebook: @etonenglish

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