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The Difference between Try and Attempt


The Difference between Try and Attempt
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This week on Ask a Teacher, we answer a question from Lestyo from Indonesia.

Question:

I would like to know what is the difference between "attempt" and "try?" Thank you very much.

Answer:

Dear Lestyo,

Thank you for writing, and yes, we will try to help!

The words “try” and “attempt” have very similar meanings. But there is a small yet important difference between “try” and “attempt.”

“Try” is more informal. You use it while speaking with friends and family. “Attempt” is more formal. You often use it while speaking and writing about reaching a goal.

Try

“Try” means to make an effort to do something. When you try something, you may not care about the result. The effort is on doing the activity more than reaching a goal. We also use “try” for doing something that we may have not done before.

Native English speakers often use the word “try” when speaking about something they want to do in daily activities. Here are two examples:

I tried a new shirt on and loved it, so I bought it.

I went to my favorite restaurant and tried a soup for the first time.

When you say “I tried a soup,” it means just to taste it. However, it will mean something different if you say, “I tried to eat soup.” It means you tried but could not.

Attempt

“Attempt” also means to try to do something. The meaning is similar to “try” but the result is more important than just doing the activity. You use it to show an activity or a situation that is more difficult or more official:

I attempted to get a good grade on the TOEFL test and I was successful.

He attempted to climb Mt. Everest, but the conditions were too dangerous.

Yes, you still can use “try” in place of “attempt” in both examples. But you want to use “attempt” for something special and important in someone’s life.

I’m happy that you are trying to use new words every day. And I look forward to seeing your attempt to use them in the comments.

I’m Armen Kassabian.

Armen Kasabian wrote this story for VOA Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.

What question do you have about American English? Send us an email at learningenglish@voanews.com.

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Words in This Story

informal – n. having a friendly and relaxed quality

formal adj. requiring or using serious and proper clothes and manners

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