It doesn't seem to me to be possible to use the adverb "strongly" in connection with the verb "try" but I can't figure out why not. It feels as it it ought to be possible but never sounds right. Is this a correct observation and if so is there a clear linguistic reason for this? The obvious answer is to use the adverb "hard", but why not "strongly"?

  • 3
    "Strongly" would not be ungrammatical, but it would be rare and unnatural: link
    – BillJ
    Jan 17 '21 at 10:03
  • So statistically speaking my observation is correct, but is there a reason for this enormous statistical difference if both are correct?
    – Kandor
    Jan 17 '21 at 11:07
  • Expressions can be unnatural while being grammatically correct. It's just the way the language has evolved.
    – BillJ
    Jan 17 '21 at 12:04
  • So you feel that it is simply a case of the expression not being used much and therefore sounding strange when it is used. I agree with that. I'm just wondering if there is logical/linguistic reason why people don't use it or if it is purely a phonic question.
    – Kandor
    Jan 17 '21 at 12:13
  • 1
    @Kandor How do you “attempt strongly”? What does that even mean? You can’t seem strongly or sleep strongly or read strongly or know strongly or listen strongly or help strongly or save strongly or fix strongly or become strongly or get strongly or watch strongly or any number of other verbs where using strongly would be senseless, so why would you think it wouldn't be equally senseless with try? Never forget that colorless green ideas sleep furiously.
    – tchrist
    Jan 18 '21 at 3:21

I don't think there is anything wrong with "try strongly" per se. It is just not the idiom that we use. In English, when I was a kid, we used to say "I did such and such by accident", most young people now say "I did such and such on accident". It is just a change in the idiom of the language.

If you said "try strongly" people would certainly understand what you meant, but it wouldn't seem quite right. I am reminded of a question someone else asked a while ago which I answered:

What is wrong in "Please don't pluck the flowers" and other phrases used in the Indian subcontinent?

How does a learner learn what is right and wrong? Unfortunately, I think the only way is by reading, listening and speaking a lot of English with native speakers.

  • 1
    There are lots of verbs that you can’t do "strongly"; think for example of: attempt strongly, help strongly, save strongly, read strongly, watch strongly, sleep strongly, fix strongly, become strongly. Those just don't make any sense. They all become mere variations on the theme of Chomsky’s famously grammatical nonsense of Colorless green ideas sleep furiously. :)
    – tchrist
    Jan 18 '21 at 3:24
  • So what it boils down to, as I had half imagined, is that the adverb "strongly" has inherent limits in its common use, but there is no logical or semantic reason for this.
    – Kandor
    Jan 18 '21 at 7:03
  • @tchrist Etically, 'try strongly' is in a different class from 'Colorless puce notions slumber vehemently'. Nobody has asked here why the latter can't be used. 'Strongly' has overlap with 'hard' in distribution ('push/blow hard/strongly') ('push ...' being common in metaphorical usages) as well as having considerable semantic overlap. Jul 17 '21 at 11:14

in the context of sports:

Sculthorpe raised hopes of a fightback with a typically strong try but a double from Brian Carney, Wigan's exuberant Irish flyer, put the seal on their night.

The Guardian

Bit of a stretch, since the phrase is strong not strongly.

  • That's using "strong" as an adjective rather than an adverb. "A try" in rugby parlance s a noun referring to a way of scoring and the OP is asking about the use of "try" as a verb meaning "attempt".
    – BoldBen
    Jan 18 '21 at 3:56
  • If I'm not mistaken "try" here isn't a verb but a noun, specifically a type of score in rugby somewhat akin to a touchdown in US football. The teams referenced I believe are rugby teams, and "flyer" is a position on a rugby team. Moreover "strong" is an adjective which would apply to a noun not a verb.
    – Fraser Orr
    Jan 19 '21 at 19:59

Strong makes me think of physical strength. "A lot of effort" is typically conveyed by "hard". As you "work hard", so you can "try hard".

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