Tonyjab:Hi There is this rule that says use a "gerund" after the verb "try" when it means "making an experiment" and use the "infinitive" when it means "making an effort". I was reading a grammar book yesterday and it said: "In the sense of "making an experiment" both the infinitive and the gerund are possible."(The following is the explanation of Marcella Frank in her book "Modern English : A Practical Reference Guide": "Try+ a gerund has the special meaning of "make an experiment with"- Try going to bed earlier; you'll feel better. In this sense the infinitive may also be used. "Try" meaning "make an attempt to" requires the infinitive - He is trying to enter a good university.") Can anybody confirm this information please?
Rachel:This means that when you speak about making an attempt, you can use only the infinitive form, as in:
• He is trying to enterentering a good university. • I have tried to reach reaching her many times, but without success.
When you speak about experimenting in this sense, you can use either the gerund or infinitive form:
• Try going/ to go to bed earlier; you’ll feel better.
However, ‘in this sense’ is puzzling. I’ve tried to find other sentences, or invent other sentences about experimentation, and they work only with the gerund for this meaning, not with the infinitive:
• She tried putting to put a little more sugar in the mix, but the pie still tasted awful. • John will try attending to attend a support group in an effort to stop smoking. • I have tried going to go to bed two hours earlier every night, but I still find it difficult to get up in the morning.
Furthermore, although Marcella Frank’s sentence is good both ways, Michael Swan says just the opposite. He says:
‘To talk about an experiment – doing something to see what will happen – we use try + ing:
I tried sending her flowers, writing her letters, giving her presents, but she still wouldn’t listen to me.
To talk about making an effort to do something difficult, we can use either try + the infinitive or try + ing:
I tried to change the wheel, but my hands were too cold. (OR I tried changing the wheel…)’
Now, this last example, ‘I tried changing the wheel,’ seems wrong to me to express making an attempt to do something difficult.
In summary, I can see that this point would be confusing. I feel that to express experiment, ‘try + the gerund’ is appropriate; that to express attempting something, ‘try + the infinitive’ is appropriate. There may be variations on this guideline, but you would not be wrong – you would always be correct – in sticking to it.
(Rachel Spack Koch is the original moderator of the Grammar Exchange. She has taught English to non-native speakers for more than 30 years, heading up the grammar component in the curriculum of the Intensive English Program at the University of Miami, and teaching grammar and TOEFL preparation at Harvard University and at community colleges.
She wrote grammar and writing questions for TOEFL for several years. A participant in and developer of interactive student activities on the Internet since the early 1990s, she designs and writes content for internet materials and ESL software, as well as for workbooks in print.
Rachel has a master’s degree in adult education with a specialty in English language teaching.)