Use TRY correctly

Person rock climbing
Boy climbing a stone wall

A mistake that English language learners often make is to confuse the words challenge and try. Last week, we looked at how to use the word "challenge". Now let's check out the word try.  

Try as a verb means to attempt something, but the grammar you use it with will affect the nuance. 

Try + verb-ing means either that you are curious about the result, doing it for the first time, or that you are going to make an extra effort. 

I went on vacation and tried snorkeling for the first time. It was fun.

If the coffee is too bitter, try adding some sugar. 

Note that the activities are not very difficult. There is not a big risk of failure if you decide to go snorkelling or add sugar to your coffee.

On the other hand, try to + verb means that you think the action is difficult. You don't know if you will succeed.

I'm going to try to get all my work done by 5:00 so I can get home in time for supper.

Try can also be a noun, which means an attempt at something.

​I wasn’t planning on running the half marathon, but my dad said, "Give it a try!"

The phrase "give [something] a try" is a common collocation in English. Can you tell what it means from the example above? Give it a try!

Did you figure it out? It means to do something in order to see what happens, or to find out if it's good or useful. Other phrases that mean the same thing are, "Give it a whirl", "Give it a shot" and "Have a go at [something]".

"I've never eaten octopus and I don't know if I'll like it, but I'll give it a shot."

Another collocation with "try" is "worth a try". In this case, you're talking about something that might not work or happen but that should be attempted anyway.

I probably won't get the job, but I'll apply anyway. It's worth a try.

Now that you know how to use the word "try" as a noun and a verb, try to remember a time when you weren't sure you would succeed at something, then try writing a few sentences about it. I bet you can do it in one try.

(Be sure to take a look at the related post, "How to use CHALLENGE correctly"!)

collocation—words that are often used together