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English Grammar - "try to do" or "try doing"?

September 5, 2016

 

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Hi there, my name is Emma and in today's lesson we're going to look at the difference between

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"try to do" and "try doing". We're going to look at other verbs other than "do" and "doing",

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but we're looking at the difference between the gerund form of "try" and the infinitive

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form of "try". So let's get started.

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Okay, so first let's look at what's known as the infinitive. What do I mean by infinitive?

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Well, I'm talking about when we have two verbs, so we have verb one which is "try" and we

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have a second verb, so here's verb two, okay? So two verbs in the sentence and they're connected

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with the preposition "to". Okay? So for example: "I tried to eat healthy." Okay? We're going

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to compare this to: "try" + verb, and the verb ends with "-ing". This is called a gerund.

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Okay, so again we have two verbs, verb one is "try" and we have a second verb which is

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"verb + ing". So for example: "I tried eating healthy." All right, so what is the difference?

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What is the difference between "try to" and "try verb + ing"? Well let's get started with

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"try to". Okay, when we "try to do" something it means we make a very big effort, we attempt

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to do something that's very difficult. So we're not doing something that's easy, we're

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doing something that's hard; we're trying to do it. And often times, even though we

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try our best, we often fail, meaning we don't do what we want to do. We try hard, but we

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don't do it. So let's look at some examples of this.

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Okay, example number one: "Maria tried to climb Mt. Everest." Well first of all, notice

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we have verb one, we have "to", and then we have verb two. Okay? So it's the infinitive

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form after "try". Now is Mount Everest something easy to climb? Is it an easy mountain, can

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anyone do it? No. It's something difficult, so that's our first clue. Our second clue

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is that Maria, she tried her best, okay? Maria tried to climb Mount Everest. This sentence

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indicates she probably failed, meaning she probably wasn't successful. She tried her

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best, but she probably didn't climb Mount Everest.

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Let's look at another example. "I tried" -- so here we have verb one again - "to" -- verb

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two - "watch" -- this is a really scary movie - "Paranormal Activity." I don't know if you've

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heard of it. So I tried to watch Paranormal Activity, but the whole time I had my eyes

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like this because it was too scary! So I tried to watch it, but it was too scary. So for

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me, this is something difficult. Watching this movie is very difficult because I jumped

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a lot, I just couldn't watch this movie; it was just so scary. So for me, it was difficult.

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I tried to do it, I attempted this difficult action. Was I successful? No, the whole time

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my eyes were covered. So I don't know what happens. I heard a lot of screaming. I can

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imagine it was very bad... very scary movie.

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Okay, our third example: "Deepak tried to study, but he was too tired." Okay? So for

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Deepak, studying is a very difficult thing to do. Why is it so difficult? Because he's

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tired. I don't know if you've ever tried to study when you're really tired, but it's not

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easy. You look at the paper, you can barely see things, you read the same sentence again

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and again and again. So for Deepak, he tried to study, it was too difficult. So again,

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difficult action, he tried his best, he probably failed. I don't know about the test, but he

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failed his attempt at studying. Okay? Now let's compare this to "try verb + ing". So

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what does "try verb + ing" mean? And so we can put any verb we want here. Well it means

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we're doing some sort of experiment. By experiment I don't mean you're a scientist and you're

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in a lab doing an experiment. I mean you're doing something you haven't done before, so

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something new. It's something that's not really difficult. Here we had all these difficult

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things we were doing. Here what you're trying, it's not difficult. You try something, but

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you don't know what's going to happen. Okay? So the outcome... you don't know what will

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happen and you want to see what will happen so in this way it's an experiment. So let's

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look at some examples.

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Someone might tell you, "Try", so here we have verb one, "adding", we have our "ing".

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"Add" is verb two. "Try adding salt to your potatoes." Okay? So again, this isn't something

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hard to do; you just need the salt shaker, you go like this, there, unless there's a

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salt shortage. So that's very simple to do, so not difficult but we don't know what's

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going to happen. Maybe if you add the salt you're going to eat it and there's going to

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be too much salt, maybe there's not going to be enough salt, maybe you're going to love

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how it tastes, maybe you're going to hate how it tastes. What happens is somewhat unknown.

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You can guess what's going to happen. You'll also notice it's giving advice. "Oh, try adding

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salt to your potatoes. Try doing this. Try doing that." We often use "try doing" when

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we want to give advice to someone because they have some sort of problem. So if I said

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to someone, "Try adding salt to your potatoes", maybe they told me before their potatoes are

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bland; they don't taste good.

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Okay, let's look at another sentence. "If you can't reach me by email, try calling me."

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So again we have... in this section we have our first verb, "try", verb 2, "call", and

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"ing". Okay? So: "If you can't reach me by email, try calling me." So again, this isn't

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difficult to do. Picking up a phone and calling, it's not difficult, it's not like climbing

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Mount Everest or watching Paranormal Activity. But the thing is you're not exactly sure of

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what will happen. You can assume the person you're trying to call will probably pick up,

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but it's not 100% guaranteed. Okay? So again this is experiment, you try to do something

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but you're not exactly sure what will be the outcome, what will happen. Okay so now we're

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going to look at both "try" plus the infinitive, "try" and the gerund, and we're going to do

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a quiz together.

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Okay, so let's do this together. Our first question:

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"If you want to become a better English speaker, try _______ English whenever you can."

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Do you think this is "try speaking English" or "try to speak English"? What do you think?

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Well, this would be "try speaking English". Now why did I put "speaking"? Well, number

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one, this is almost like an experiment. You can guess what the outcome will be, you want

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to see what will happen if you speak English. Will your English improve, is that going to

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be the outcome? The second thing is, again, when we use "try + ing" this is often advice.

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Somebody is telling you advice to help you out. "Try speaking English whenever you can,

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that will help you get better at the language."

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Let's try number two: "I tried _______ my driving test, but I failed."

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Do you think "I tried to pass my driving test" or "I tried passing"? Okay, well this is our

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clue: "failed", so clearly this was too hard, too difficult.

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Sorry, oops. "I tried to pass".

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Okay. Let's look at number three: "If your girlfriend is angry at you," -- maybe

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you forgot her birthday - "try _______ her flowers."

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Do you think this should be "try to give her flowers" or "try giving her flowers"? If you

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said, "Try giving her flowers", you're correct. This is again like an experiment. We don't

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know exactly what's going to happen. It's easy to do, to buy flowers. We don't know

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what's going to happen, but maybe she'll be happy with you; maybe she'll forgive you for

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forgetting her birthday. And again, "try giving her flowers", this is a piece of advice. -"What

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should I do?" -"Well, try doing this." Okay?

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So if you want to become a better English speaker, I invite you to check out our website

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at www.engvid.com. There you will find a quiz where you can look at the difference between

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"try to do" and "try doing". So try doing our quiz on the site and until next time, take care.

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Learn English for free www.engvid.com

 

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