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The research study is an eye-opener and attempts to acquaint/attempts at acquainting us with the problems of poor nations.

For me, attempts to acquaint sounds more apt. But I am not sure about the latter one. Also, in my answer sheet, the latter one is given as the right answer. But I have heard phrases like attempt to murder. Could anyone explain the correct usage?

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"explain the correct usage". I was schooled in the classically liberating thought that there isn't any circumstance where we should presume "correct use" of English or "correct English". Rather we should attempt "appropriate, proper or acceptable" use of English compatible with the normal regional patterns of English usage. –  Blessed Geek Jan 20 '13 at 9:43
    
@Blessed Geek. He sedded that they all time wonderful a had were isn’t correct in any variety of the language. :) –  Barrie England Jan 20 '13 at 9:50
    
Sudhir may be able to find the answer here: english.stackexchange.com/questions/329/… –  Barrie England Jan 20 '13 at 9:52
    
@Barrie England: Great ! I admire you linguistic competency. –  Sudhir Jan 20 '13 at 9:54
    
But what will be correct answer as 'attempt' is followed by both? –  Sudhir Jan 20 '13 at 10:00

3 Answers 3

up vote 2 down vote accepted

This question is not actually about whether you should use acquaint or acquainting. That is a side-effect of the preposition/particle which follows attempts.

Attempts can be followed by at (and a gerund) if attempts is a noun. Note that it can also use to and the infinitive form of the verb.

I made several attempts at doing that.

If attempts is a verb, it must be followed by to and an infinitive.

It attempts to do that.

The question is testing how the parts of the sentence are parsed. Here, attempts is a verb and must be followed by to and an infinitive.

If the sentence is lengthened, then attempts can be made into a noun, but an additional comma helps:

The research study is an eye-opener, and attempts at acquainting us with the problems of poor nations are ultimately successful.

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Thanks Andrew Leach. I totally accepted your answer. –  Sudhir Jan 20 '13 at 11:09

Attempts to acquaint is grammatical and attempts at acquainting isn’t. If attempts is to be followed by the -ing form at all, it must be without at.

In some cases where both are possible, the to- infinitive describes a possible action, while an -ing clause describes the actual performance of the action. In this case, the verb attempts means that the act of acquainting us with the problems of poor nations has not been completed, or even initiated, leaving the to- infinitive as the only sensible choice.

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2  
@Sudhir, whichever questions you are using, change supplier! It seems that the questions you are given to answer are unclear or ambiguous and the answers provided at least unexplained if not actually wrong. –  Andrew Leach Jan 20 '13 at 10:44
    
@Andrew Leach:Here supplier means? –  Sudhir Jan 20 '13 at 11:10
1  
The supplier is the person you get the questions from. I'm inclined to agree with @AndrewLeach here. –  Jon Hanna Jan 20 '13 at 11:37

Attempt can be both a verb and a noun. When used as a verb, it is more commonly followed by "to" and the infinitive. So

The research study attempts to acquaint us ... .

is the more expected pattern than

The research study attempts at acquainting us ... .

If the sentence were to be rewritten slightly to use attempt as a plural noun, then both continuations seem roughly equally acceptable:

The research study makes attempts to acquaint us with the problems of poor nations.

The research study makes attempts at acquainting us with the problems of poor nations.

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