In a book about the philosopher Collingwood, I have found the following statement about logic. At first glance, it seems to me that the change from aim to to aim at is merely stylistic, but I think that it could also be possible that there might be a certain either grammatical or logical explanation for the difference.

"On the one hand it is descriptive, and aims to give an account of how we actually think; on the other hand it is normative, and aims at giving an account of the ideal of thought, the way in which we ought to think."

Is the difference merely stylistic?

  • 1
    The first is simply indicative verb +infinitive, the second indicative verb +at+gerund. And it applies to all kinds of verbs "tries to/at", "pretends to/at", "hopes to/at", "helps to/at", "fails to/at". Or "succeeds to/ in" etc.
    – WS2
    Commented Nov 27, 2018 at 23:23

2 Answers 2


Most likely, the author makes the change to avoid how boring it would be to use the exact same phrase twice in a row. The bolded phrases are not different in meaning.


I think there's also a slight difference in meaning. This could be proved by the fact that, otherwise we could use "to aim + gerund (representing the substantive action) as the object verb could be replaced by "it" (I'm aiming to it).

But because the correct and most taught structure (although illogical) is:

aim at+gerund
aim to + base verb

Then there must be a further reason besides the stylistic construct.

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