What is the difference?

To try doing something
Try to do something

I found that try + infinitive means: make an effort to achieve something while try + -ing means: do something as an experiment to solve a problem.

Why don't you try holding your breath for a minute or two?
Why don't you try to hold your breath for a minute or two?

The answer key indicates that the meanings of these two sentences are different. How are they different?

  • Is 'here' that book again? Try here instead. And this is homework - I see someone has already downvoted you. And this is almost certainly a dupe. Feb 2, 2014 at 17:18
  • i didn't get it about homework though..@Edwin Ashworth
    – Yukatan
    Feb 2, 2014 at 18:15
  • and i can't care less about being down or upvoted ..:) @EdwinAshworth
    – Yukatan
    Feb 2, 2014 at 18:17
  • and 'here' stands for Macmillan Exam Skills for Russia: Grammar and Vocabulary ISBN: 978-02307-2832-5
    – Yukatan
    Feb 2, 2014 at 18:19
  • i've never in my whole life done a site search.. i don't think i should be punished for that.. i've gone through all the possible book sources i possess at home.. and hadn't found the answer that's why i asked.. till today i had no ide this site existed.. so.. sorry to irritate hell out of you, @FumbleFingers
    – Yukatan
    Feb 2, 2014 at 18:57

1 Answer 1


What a good question! The difference is very subtle. In the infinitive form there's a sense that the person might not be able to do the thing and is being challenged to attempt it. In the other form the sense is more choosing to do something possible - perhaps to another end.

If you have hiccups you can try holding your breath to stop them. Changing the word order: Try to stop them by holding your breath. "Try to hold your breath" is self-contained - no purpose is suggested.

In your example, no 2 seems to come out of the blue - random. No 1 suggests that there is an application, as if someone has said something that prompts the suggestion.

Hope this helps.

  • yep, it's been more than useful, thank u a million:)
    – Yukatan
    Feb 2, 2014 at 18:22
  • It's not a good question as it's a duplicate. Feb 2, 2014 at 23:15
  • Its duplication doesn't affect its quality. It might not be original, but why does that make it bad?
    – Colin
    Feb 9, 2014 at 20:37

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.