Today’s tip is on the difference in meaning between “try to do something” and “try doing something”.
“try” plus an infinitive, that is, “to” plus a verb, such as “try to learn” “try to open” “try to read” means to make an effort to do it. “try” plus a gerund, that is, verb-ing, such as “try opening”, “try turning on”, “try giving” means to experiment with a new or different approach to see if it works.
Let’s look at some exams. “I’m trying to learn Taiwanese.” This means I’m making an effort to do it. I’m taking a Taiwanese class, doing my homework and speaking in Taiwanese whenever I can. Here’s another exam. “I tried to open the window.” This sentence means I pulled the window up, but it did not go up, so I pushed the window up, but it still did not open. I made an effort to open the window, but I could not open it. On the other hand, “I tried opening the window” means that I did open the window and that I opened it for a reason. I was hot and I wanted to cool off. I tried opening the window, but that didn’t help. So I tried turning on the fan, but I was still hot. So I tried taking off some of my clothes, but that didn’t work either. Finally, I turned on the air conditioner, and that finally succeeded in helping me cool off. I experimented with many things to see what would work.
So remember, “try to do something” is to make an effort, and “try doing something” is to experiment with different way to achieve your purpose.
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