5

I understand the phrase "try as I might..." to mean "I'm trying very hard and still..." and I'm comfortable using it in the present tense.

However, I don't understand the grammar of the phrase and therefore cannot really decide how to use it in the past tense. Specifically, I am wondering how to say the equivalent of "I was trying very hard and still..."

Is it "try as I did" or does it just not change at all: "try as I might"?

8
  • 1
    It cannot be explained grammatically. It is an idiom. Try as I might, I couldn't persuade him = No matter how hard I tried, he couldn't be persuaded.
    – WS2
    Oct 9, 2015 at 16:05
  • It should be noted that try as I might is in the past tense; try as I may is in the present.
    – Anonym
    Oct 9, 2015 at 17:06
  • Also, here are some other examples of the same construction: Deny it who will (even if anyone denies it, it's still true); be that as it may (even if that's true, so is the following). Deny it who would and be that as it might are the past-tense forms.
    – Anonym
    Oct 9, 2015 at 17:12
  • Today this is a frozen idiom. But was might originally in the subjunctive mood here? Oct 9, 2015 at 17:19
  • @WS2 It can be explained grammatically. It is all subjunctive thing.
    – user140086
    Oct 9, 2015 at 18:32

1 Answer 1

5

Try as someone might is a set phrase that is used in its 'fixed form' also in the past tense:

  • used for saying that someone is making a very great effort but still cannot do something
    • Try as he might, he could not forget.

(MacMillan Dict)

The expression exists also in the less common form of:

Try as I may:

  • Cliché a phrase that introduces an expression of regret or failure.
    • Bill: Try as I may, I cannot get this thing put together right. Andy: Did you read the instructions? Rachel: Wow! This place is a mess! Mother: Try as I might, I can't get Andrew to clean up after himself.

(McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs)

Ngram : try as I/he/she/they might

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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