It's quite common expression (condolence?) we hear from others when we don't succeed in what we wanted or made an attempt toward. It's a kinda motivating gesture and to encourage the person by telling good try... you surely worked harder for it but...

Does the word try always mean the task/target/aim remained incomplete? In a dictionary, it is defined as..

try (v) - make an effort to accomplish something

But then, it simply leaves it halfway by telling 'make an effort'. What about the result?

By any means, may I greet someone with Good try when they succeed?

  • I believe that it's more about culture and motivation than language. I think it depends on who you're talking to. Are they result-oriented or action-oriented? For those who are result-oriented, results are what important, and more important than the attempts. Action-oriented people are different. Putting their efforts into something is already rewarding, and that can even be more important than the outcomes. (It was a really nice try! See what happened if we really gave it a try, we won!) In any case, I think the tone you deliver it (Good try! or Nice try!) is more important. Apr 26, 2014 at 6:22
  • @DamkerngT. My last line is my real question and the stuff above is to drive the reader onto my point. If you successfully won the silver this time, may I say... great try, now you'll have to work for the gold. Also, as I said... *I passed my driving test at the first attempt - is it possible? if it was an attempt, how did you pass?
    – Maulik V
    Apr 26, 2014 at 6:30
  • 2
    In general, I'd say Good/great job! works better. Apr 26, 2014 at 6:44
  • @DamkerngT. true and agreed. But it does not give that flair of efforts.
    – Maulik V
    Apr 26, 2014 at 6:49
  • RE: Does 'Good Try' always mean good efforts but ultimately you didn't succeed at it? Not on the rugby field ;^)
    – J.R.
    Apr 26, 2014 at 8:29

4 Answers 4


In the phrase "good try", "try" is being used as a noun. "try" as a noun means something more like "attempt" (also a noun here), which implies that one did not succeed.

try (n) - an effort to accomplish something; an attempt

attempt (n) - an act of trying to achieve something, typically one that is unsuccessful or not certain to succeed

From my understanding, you cannot use "good try" unless the person put effort into an attempt and did not succeed. It is a nice thing you can say to somebody when they really wanted to succeed but they did not succeed. "Nice try" has a very similar meaning.

  • 1
    But then we say ... He never gave up. He won the trophy though in his third attempt.; I passed my driving test at the first attempt
    – Maulik V
    Apr 26, 2014 at 6:15
  • 2
    @Maulik - That's an excellent comment. I don't know why phrases like "third attempt" or "second try" leave the outcome in doubt, but "good try" almost always connotes a failed attempt (unless context somehow indicates otherwise, but I think that would happen very rarely). Somehow, "good try" has become almost idiomatic, in that it's used to praise effort despite a lack of success.
    – J.R.
    Apr 26, 2014 at 8:39
  • @J.R. thanks! Yes, thinking further and further about your comment and this answer, I agree.
    – Maulik V
    Apr 26, 2014 at 9:14

To compliment someone on their attempt is to imply the only thing commendable about their attempt was that they made it. Compare, "Well, at least you tried."

  • 1
    "Good try" is a lot better than that. I'd use "good try" for example for an attempt to do something really difficult and almost making it, especially if most people wouldn't almost make it.
    – gnasher729
    May 9, 2014 at 15:54

Yes. It would be over-analysing to suggest that 'Good try!' meant anything other than encouragement after a failed attempt.

We could contrast it with 'Way to go!' which SOUNDS as if it should mean the same thing - 'nice try but still some way short of a result' - but is actually used as simple congratulation for success. (I might mention that I - a native speaker of British English - only recently discovered the meaning of this Americanism. I would only put it into the mouth of an American character.)


In my opinion "good try" is similar to "good job" but the meaning is different.

"Good job" is used when somebody succeeds at something, but "good try" is used when somebody failed at something. We use it as a condolence & encouragement.

  • Would the downvoter please explain?
    – Ben Kovitz
    Jun 14, 2015 at 7:58

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