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Trying, or Doing One’s Best

Ask a Teacher
Ask a Teacher
Trying, or Doing One’s Best
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Today we answer a question from Alan in China.


I'm wondering about the difference between “try” or “do one's best.” My English teacher told me they are same. But I believe every word has a difference. Can you help me? - Alan, China


Dear Alan,

Thank you for writing, and yes, we can help!

Your teacher is right that the two expressions can mean about the same thing. But you are right that there is small but important difference between “try” and “do one’s best.”

“Try” means to make an effort, to attempt to accomplish or complete something. But the effort may or may not be successful.

Like this:

I tried to do my school work, but it was so hard I had to give up!

The person was trying, but did not finish the job.

Now, let’s look at “do one’s best.” The word “do” means to perform an action or an activity. It suggests that the work is happening. “One’s best” means to put your maximum effort or attention into the job. Here’s how the expression sounds in a sentence:

My school work was hard, but I did my best to get it right. I even stayed after class to ask my teacher to explain it to me.

This person made an extra effort to get the work done. He figured out how to get help. He was not just trying, he was doing his best!

However, sometimes people say they are trying, but they are not putting in much effort. That means they are not doing their best. This is where you can really see the difference between “trying” and “doing your best.” It can depend on effort.

As a wise person once told me, “Trying is not always doing.” Those are words I try to live by…

And That’s Ask a Teacher!

I’m Anne Ball.

Anne Ball wrote this story for Learning English. Kelly Jean Kelly was the editor.

Do you have a question for the teacher? We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section.


Words in This Story

accomplish – v. to succeed in doing (something)

maximum – adj. greatest possible in amount or degree