161.- Try + gerund try + infinitive Advanced.


Try to do or Try doing script

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 iteself is hard. When an 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.



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 ‘trying doing’ when there’s a problem and we’re suggesting a possible solution.


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?


  1. Here we go.

Try rolling it into a smaller ball.

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