Let's suppose that someone who has committed a wrong doing is trying to justify their action and consequently themselves. You notice that although they are well aware that that they have done has not be justifiable, they are trying to justify that by putting forward so much illogical reasoning. Which sentence is correct to be asked from him/her in this sense?

1- Why do you keep justifying yourself?
2- Why do you keep trying to justify yourself?

I have an intuition that #2 is the correct choice, but I cannot explain why. I wonder if you help me with it.

  • Justifying is not the same as trying to justify. One only needs to justify oneself once. Jun 30, 2019 at 16:04
  • I see Michael. What I need is inquiring about the most natural construction that mostly a native uses in this sense. For instance, in English, people cannot say "someone has committed suicide" while he / she is still alive and if they try to kill themselves, but after giving it a try they survive, we can only say: "he/she attempted (tried) to commit suicide." I think the something similar goes with my sentences in this thread too.
    – A-friend
    Jun 30, 2019 at 16:10
  • A-friend, your question answers itself. You said "trying to justify" twice when asking which to use, and implicitly said they cannot succeed because what they have done "is not justifiable." Thus they can only try
    – Ron Jensen
    Jun 30, 2019 at 17:33
  • Why do you keep asking the question? Why do you keep trying to ask the question?
    – Lambie
    Jun 30, 2019 at 17:43

1 Answer 1


Michael Harvey suggests that you really should only have to "justify" yourself once. This is why he says "try to justify" makes more sense in your example, because of the word "keep", which indicates an ongoing action.

In this way it's like "finish" or "arrive". You normally don't "keep finishing" or "keep arriving", as these are one-time events. You can, of course, "keep trying to finish/arrive" as a continuous action.

I agree with this point, but I can also imagine a series of justifications, repeated over and over, where it makes sense to just say "justify". For example, suppose you disagree with something I did, and I retort:

I don't have to justify myself to you!

Suppose instead you continually reject my reasons, no matter what I say. I could respond:

I don't have to keep justifying myself to you!

I'm not trying to justify myself. I believe I have already justified myself, but you refuse to accept my reasons.

On the other hand, in your example, it's the other person who is offering justifications which you refuse to accept. It makes more sense for you to use "try to justify" because you believe the person has not yet succeeded (and may never succeed) in actually justifying the action.

One time:

I don't understand how you can try to justify your actions, as there is no reasonable excuse.


I don't understand why you keep trying to justify your actions with unreasonable excuses.


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