English Grammar - "try to do" or "try doing"?
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Hi there, my name is Emma and in today's lesson we're going to look at the difference between
"try to do" and "try doing". We're going to look at other verbs other than "do" and "doing",
but we're looking at the difference between the gerund form of "try" and the infinitive
form of "try". So let's get started.
Okay, so first let's look at what's known as the infinitive. What do I mean by infinitive?
Well, I'm talking about when we have two verbs, so we have verb one which is "try" and we
have a second verb, so here's verb two, okay? So two verbs in the sentence and they're connected
with the preposition "to". Okay? So for example: "I tried to eat healthy." Okay? We're going
to compare this to: "try" + verb, and the verb ends with "-ing". This is called a gerund.
Okay, so again we have two verbs, verb one is "try" and we have a second verb which is
"verb + ing". So for example: "I tried eating healthy." All right, so what is the difference?
What is the difference between "try to" and "try verb + ing"? Well let's get started with
"try to". Okay, when we "try to do" something it means we make a very big effort, we attempt
to do something that's very difficult. So we're not doing something that's easy, we're
doing something that's hard; we're trying to do it. And often times, even though we
try our best, we often fail, meaning we don't do what we want to do. We try hard, but we
don't do it. So let's look at some examples of this.
Okay, example number one: "Maria tried to climb Mt. Everest." Well first of all, notice
we have verb one, we have "to", and then we have verb two. Okay? So it's the infinitive
form after "try". Now is Mount Everest something easy to climb? Is it an easy mountain, can
anyone do it? No. It's something difficult, so that's our first clue. Our second clue
is that Maria, she tried her best, okay? Maria tried to climb Mount Everest. This sentence
indicates she probably failed, meaning she probably wasn't successful. She tried her
best, but she probably didn't climb Mount Everest.
Let's look at another example. "I tried" -- so here we have verb one again - "to" -- verb
two - "watch" -- this is a really scary movie - "Paranormal Activity." I don't know if you've
heard of it. So I tried to watch Paranormal Activity, but the whole time I had my eyes
like this because it was too scary! So I tried to watch it, but it was too scary. So for
me, this is something difficult. Watching this movie is very difficult because I jumped
a lot, I just couldn't watch this movie; it was just so scary. So for me, it was difficult.
I tried to do it, I attempted this difficult action. Was I successful? No, the whole time
my eyes were covered. So I don't know what happens. I heard a lot of screaming. I can
imagine it was very bad... very scary movie.
Okay, our third example: "Deepak tried to study, but he was too tired." Okay? So for
Deepak, studying is a very difficult thing to do. Why is it so difficult? Because he's
tired. I don't know if you've ever tried to study when you're really tired, but it's not
easy. You look at the paper, you can barely see things, you read the same sentence again
and again and again. So for Deepak, he tried to study, it was too difficult. So again,
difficult action, he tried his best, he probably failed. I don't know about the test, but he
failed his attempt at studying. Okay? Now let's compare this to "try verb + ing". So
what does "try verb + ing" mean? And so we can put any verb we want here. Well it means
we're doing some sort of experiment. By experiment I don't mean you're a scientist and you're
in a lab doing an experiment. I mean you're doing something you haven't done before, so
something new. It's something that's not really difficult. Here we had all these difficult
things we were doing. Here what you're trying, it's not difficult. You try something, but
you don't know what's going to happen. Okay? So the outcome... you don't know what will
happen and you want to see what will happen so in this way it's an experiment. So let's
look at some examples.
Someone might tell you, "Try", so here we have verb one, "adding", we have our "ing".
"Add" is verb two. "Try adding salt to your potatoes." Okay? So again, this isn't something
hard to do; you just need the salt shaker, you go like this, there, unless there's a
salt shortage. So that's very simple to do, so not difficult but we don't know what's
going to happen. Maybe if you add the salt you're going to eat it and there's going to
be too much salt, maybe there's not going to be enough salt, maybe you're going to love
how it tastes, maybe you're going to hate how it tastes. What happens is somewhat unknown.
You can guess what's going to happen. You'll also notice it's giving advice. "Oh, try adding
salt to your potatoes. Try doing this. Try doing that." We often use "try doing" when
we want to give advice to someone because they have some sort of problem. So if I said
to someone, "Try adding salt to your potatoes", maybe they told me before their potatoes are
bland; they don't taste good.
Okay, let's look at another sentence. "If you can't reach me by email, try calling me."
So again we have... in this section we have our first verb, "try", verb 2, "call", and
"ing". Okay? So: "If you can't reach me by email, try calling me." So again, this isn't
difficult to do. Picking up a phone and calling, it's not difficult, it's not like climbing
Mount Everest or watching Paranormal Activity. But the thing is you're not exactly sure of
what will happen. You can assume the person you're trying to call will probably pick up,
but it's not 100% guaranteed. Okay? So again this is experiment, you try to do something
but you're not exactly sure what will be the outcome, what will happen. Okay so now we're
going to look at both "try" plus the infinitive, "try" and the gerund, and we're going to do
a quiz together.
Okay, so let's do this together. Our first question:
"If you want to become a better English speaker, try _______ English whenever you can."
Do you think this is "try speaking English" or "try to speak English"? What do you think?
Well, this would be "try speaking English". Now why did I put "speaking"? Well, number
one, this is almost like an experiment. You can guess what the outcome will be, you want
to see what will happen if you speak English. Will your English improve, is that going to
be the outcome? The second thing is, again, when we use "try + ing" this is often advice.
Somebody is telling you advice to help you out. "Try speaking English whenever you can,
that will help you get better at the language."
Let's try number two: "I tried _______ my driving test, but I failed."
Do you think "I tried to pass my driving test" or "I tried passing"? Okay, well this is our
clue: "failed", so clearly this was too hard, too difficult.
Sorry, oops. "I tried to pass".
Okay. Let's look at number three: "If your girlfriend is angry at you," -- maybe
you forgot her birthday - "try _______ her flowers."
Do you think this should be "try to give her flowers" or "try giving her flowers"? If you
said, "Try giving her flowers", you're correct. This is again like an experiment. We don't
know exactly what's going to happen. It's easy to do, to buy flowers. We don't know
what's going to happen, but maybe she'll be happy with you; maybe she'll forgive you for
forgetting her birthday. And again, "try giving her flowers", this is a piece of advice. -"What
should I do?" -"Well, try doing this." Okay?
So if you want to become a better English speaker, I invite you to check out our website
at www.engvid.com. There you will find a quiz where you can look at the difference between
"try to do" and "try doing". So try doing our quiz on the site and until next time, take care.
Learn English for free www.engvid.com