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What is the difference between "try" and "try out"?

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2 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

To try is to make an attempt to do something (or not).

I try not to eat too much saturated fat.

I try to run five miles every day.

To try out can mean either to attempt to qualify for a team sport

Sheila plans to try out for the cheerleading squad.

or, when used with an object, to see whether one wants to qualify something for possible use or purchase.

I'm going to try out a new set of golf clubs Saturday. If I like them I'll buy them.

EDIT

To "try" something also means to sample it. It is also used as an informal way of ordering a particular food item, whether at a dinner or a restaurant.

I'll try a piece of that peach pie, please.

Try the nachos here. They're supposed to be the best in town.

And, finally, try can be used to mean litigate a case in a court of law

The DA plans to try the case in Superior Court.

or test the mettle of someone or something.

"These are the times that try men's souls." — Thomas Paine, The Crisis

"I find your attitude toward my new wife very trying," John told his sister.

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I think your definition is correct, but does not cover the complete range of meanings for "try". "I'll try some of that cake" -- is this an attempt at eating it? Or is it a test whether I like it or not? –  teylyn May 2 '11 at 10:00
    
@teylyn: "Try" in that case means to sample something. I'll add that sense to the answer. –  Robusto May 2 '11 at 10:46
    
Would you also use "I'll try OUT a piece of that peach pie, please." or "Try OUT the nachos here."?? I just got a downvote for stating that using "try out" would sound odd in this context, so I'm wondering... –  teylyn May 2 '11 at 11:24
    
@teylyn: It's grammatical enough, but I think it would sound odd. If you try something out, there is the implication that you may decide to return it for a refund, etc., or reject it for another reason. My personal preference would be to use "try" for foodstuffs. –  Robusto May 2 '11 at 12:32
    
I think try and try out are interchangeable when they mean sample. "Try out the new sushi place" gets 19,000,000 results on google and "Try the new sushi place" gets 13,000,000 –  Juan Mendes Jun 8 '12 at 6:06
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A little bit more context may be helpful. Off the top of my head, I'd use "try" more in a sense of "have a taste" and "try out" like "test if you like a certain activity". Examples:

I've made chocolate chip cookies. Would you like to try some?

and

Yoga is really relaxing. You should try it out if you want to calm down.

For the latter example, "try" will work, too, but for the former, "try out" sounds odd.

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I'm struggling with recognising a difference here. I'm sure I've used the phrase "I've made a cake, would you like to try it out?" to invite someone to test my cake and see what they think of it. –  Loquacity May 2 '11 at 9:24
    
Maybe it's a regional thing. As I use it, "try" is more a passive, consumptive activity, whereas "try out" involves active participation. I would "try" a piece of your cake, but I would "try out" a recipe for a cake. The latter involves more activity on my side. Maybe it's just me. –  teylyn May 2 '11 at 9:28
    
Yes, it must be regional. I don't think I'd make a distinction there at all. The only instance I can think of where I would use one over the other would be in the sense of auditioning ('trying out') for a sports team, drama performance, music group or similar, but that's really a different sense altogether. –  Loquacity May 2 '11 at 9:33
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