‘Try to do’ or ‘Try doing’?

Try To Do and Try Doing: Simple English Videos Lesson

What are you doing? Oh, I’m trying to learn to touch type. But what are all the stickie notes for? Oh, I’m trying not to look at the keys. Good luck with that. The verb ‘try’ can be followed by an infinitive form or a gerund and the two structures have very similar meanings. In fact they’re so similar that in some situations you can use either. Have you spoken to Rachel? No I tried calling her but the line was busy. Have you spoken to Rachel? No I tried to call her but the line was busy. In both cases Jay wanted to speak to Rachel. ‘I tried calling’ means he thought phoning might be the way to do it. ‘I tried to call’ means he made an effort – made an attempt to speak to her. So the difference is very subtle – very small. ‘Try doing’ is about getting results, achieving a successful outcome. ‘Try to do’ is about making an effort. I’m trying to change this lightbulb but I can’t reach. We often use ‘try to do’ when we think something is hard. We’re trying to do this jigsaw, but it’s very difficult. What’s a frog’s favourite drink? Jay, I’m busy. Croak-a-Cola. Did you know cows have four stomachs? Jay, I’m trying to work. So we use ‘try to’ when an action itself is hard. When the action is easy but we don’t know if it will achieve the result we want, we use ‘try doing’. What do you think? It’s a bit tasteless. Try adding some salt. OK. Adding salt is easy, so the issue here is will salt make it better. ‘Try doing’ is about experimenting to find something that works. The television’s not working. Try plugging it in. Oh. We often use ‘try doing’ when there’s a problem and we’re suggesting a possible solution. Coming? I want to finish my coffee. It’s hot. Try putting some ice in it. Good idea. I do wish you’d try going out with some of the other boys as well as Geoff. Why? Mother I like Geoff a lot. I know dear. I like him too. But after all, there are other boys in the world. So ‘try to do’ – make an effort. ‘Try doing’ – experiment. You can see both forms in this sentence here. Learning to touch type is hard. You have to make an effort. Perhaps sticky notes will help, or perhaps not. They’re an experiment. One last example. What are you doing? I’m trying to get a paper ball into Kathy’s trash can. Oh well done! Can I try? Sure. OK. Here we go. Try rolling it into a smaller ball. OK.

4 thoughts on “‘Try to do’ or ‘Try doing’?

  • April 10, 2016 at 12:33 pm
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    Hi, Vicki and Jay!

    In this video, you say: “I’m trying to learn to touch type”, but can I say: “I’m trying to learn to type” in stead, and which one sounds more natural to native speakers?

    Please correct my English if I make any mistakes. I would appreciate your help!

    Reply
    • April 10, 2016 at 7:39 pm
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      Hi JC! Yes, you could also say ‘I’m trying to learn to type’ and that would sound natural as well. Touch type is more specific. It means typing without looking at the keys. For example, I do not know how to touch type. I have to look at the keys. But I have learnt to type very fast with two fingers.

      Reply
  • July 12, 2016 at 11:41 am
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    This video helps me a lot to understand more about english.

    Reply
    • July 12, 2016 at 11:57 am
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      That’s great Eva. Thanks for writing!

      Reply

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