Category Archives: Grammar

“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

In mind / in one’s mind / on one’s mind

“In mind,” “in one’s mind,” and “on one’s mind” are quite similar in meaning, but there are important differences in how they’re used. Let’s see if I can clarify.

1. In mind

“Have … in mind” refers to having a specific idea, especially something specific that you want or expect.

  • You say you want to buy a new phone. Did you have a particular brand in mind?
  • A:  Do you want to do something this weekend?
    B: Maybe. What do you have in mind?
  • I don’t like the color of that jacket. I had something darker in mind.

“Keep … in mind” and “bear … in mind” mean to remember to consider something.

  • How much money do you think we’ll need for dinner? Keep in mind that there are six of us.
  • We need to keep our customers’ needs in mind when we design our products.
  • Thanks for your advice. I’ll bear it in mind.

2. In one’s mind

“In one’s mind” is used to talk about someone’s beliefs, opinions, or imagination — especially to contrast it with the real situation or with what other people think.

  • Most people think he’s very rude, but in his mind he’s just being honest.
  • I can’t believe your son is seventeen years old already! In my mind, he’s still a baby.

In the James Taylor song “Carolina In My Mind,” the singer is “going to Carolina in my mind” — which means he isn’t really going to Carolina. He’s just daydreaming about going there.

The Offspring song “Pretty Fly For A White Guy,” they sing: “Friends say he’s trying too hard and he’s not quite hip, but in his own mind he’s the dopest trip.” (Translation: His friends don’t think he’s very cool, but he thinks he’s extremely cool.) His coolness is only “in his own mind.”

3. On one’s mind

If you have something “on your mind,” it means you’ve been thinking about it a lot, and maybe worrying about it.

  • Sorry I forgot to call you. I’ve had a lot on my mind these days.
  • A:  There’s something I want to talk to you about. Do you have a few minutes?
    Sure. What’s on your mind?

The Eagles song “Take It Easy,” the singer has a lot of things to worry about — he has “seven women” and “a world of trouble” on his mind — but he’s trying to forget them and relax.

But the classic example of this phrase is, of course, the Elvis Presley (貓王) song “Always On My Mind.”

Test yourself

See how well you understand these differences. What’s the best way to complete each sentence?

  1. I couldn’t sleep last night because I had too many things ___.
    A. in mind   B. in my mind   C. on my mind
  2. She says she wants to go “somewhere interesting” on our vacation. I wonder what kind of place she has ___.
    A. in mind   B. in her mind   C. on her mind
  3. I don’t really care what kind of car I drive. ___, they’re all just cars.
    A. in mind   B. in my mind   C. on my mind

Post your answers in the comments, and I’ll reveal the correct answers later.

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

Using “enough” correctly

What’s the difference between these two examples?

  1. John doesn’t have enough education.
  2. John’s education isn’t enough.

“Enough” can be used in two quite different ways, but unfortunately grammar books never explain the difference. Let’s see if I can clear it up.

1. Enough + N

In example 1, the word “enough” is right before the noun it modifies: “enough education.” We’re talking about how much education John needs to have. He has some education, but he doesn’t have enough. He needs more education. Here’s a longer example, with context.

  • We’re not going to hire John because he doesn’t have enough education. He only has a bachelor’s degree, but we want someone with a master’s degree for this job.

2. N + be-verb + enough

In example 2, “enough” and the noun (“education”) are not together. They are connected with a be-verb (“isn’t”). We’re talking about all the things John needs to have. He has a good education, but education isn’t enough. He needs something else besides just education. Here’s a longer example with context.

  • John has a PhD from Harvard, but we’re not going to hire him. He has a great education, but education isn’t enough for this job. We need someone with at least five years of experience, but John doesn’t have any experience at all. Also, we’d like someone whose social skills are better than John’s.

More examples

Here are some more pairs of examples to show the difference between “enough + N” and “N + b-verb + enough.”

  • There are 25 people here, but we only have 20 bottles of water. We don’t have enough water.
  • We have plenty of water, but water isn’t enough. We should order some tea and coffee, too.

The first example above means that we need more water. The second example means that we need something else besides just water.

  • My doctor says I don’t get enough vitamins. He gave me some vitamin pills to take every day.
  • I take vitamin pills every day, but my doctor says vitamins aren’t enough. He says I need to get more protein, too, and I also need to exercise more often.

In the first example above, I need more vitamins. In the second example, I need something else besides just vitamins.

  • We don’t have enough conference calls with this customer. We need to arrange calls more often.
  • Conference calls aren’t enough. Sometimes it’s necessary to meet in person.

Okay, I think you get the idea now.

Sometimes Love Just Ain’t Enough

There’s an old (1992) song by Patty Smyth and Don Henley called “Sometimes Love Just Ain’t Enough.” (“Ain’t” is an informal word that can mean “isn’t,” “aren’t,” or “am not.”)

Chinese speakers might easily misunderstand what the song is about. They think “love just [isn’t] enough” means “We don’t have enough love” or “We don’t love each other enough.”

Actually, the song is about two people who love each other very much — maybe too much — but love isn’t enough. They love each other, but there’s some other reason they can’t be together. Maybe it’s a problem about money or about their families or something like that. They don’t need more love; they already have plenty of love. They need something else besides just love.

But there’s a danger in loving somebody too much,
And it’s sad when you know it’s your heart you can’t trust.
There’s a reason why people don’t stay where they are.
Baby, sometimes, love just ain’t enough.

I think that’s enough explanation — but sometimes explanation isn’t enough. Maybe you should just listen to the song!

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

Thanks for…

When you’ve just finished a speech or presentation, what do you say to the audience? “Thank you for your listening,” right? Wrong! It’s a very common mistake in Taiwan.

 

If you want to thank people for something they did, or for their attitude, you can use these two patterns:

1. Thanks / Thank you + for + Ving

  • Thanks for listening.
  • Thank you for helping me.
  • Thanks for being such a good friend.
  • No, I don’t need any help, but thanks for asking.

2. Thanks / Thank you + for your + N

  • Thank you for your time.
  • Thank you for your attention.
  • Thanks for your patience.
  • Thank you for your assistance.

If you want to thank people for giving you something, you can use this pattern:

3. Thanks / Thank you + for the + N

  • Thanks for the information. It was very helpful.
  • Thank you for the flowers.
  • Thanks for the meal.
  • Thank you for the generous gift.

NOTE: Sometimes the same word can be used as a gerund (Ving) or a noun (N). For example, “understanding” and “warning” are often used as nouns.

  • Thanks for understanding how i feel. (Ving)
  • Thank you for your understanding. (N)
  • Thanks for warning us about the scam. (Ving)
  • Thanks for the warning. (N)

Any questions? Post a comment. Thanks for reading!

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