What is the difference between 'try to do' and 'try doing'?

My textbook says, that if you want to make suggestion, you must say 'try + doing':

A: Fred isn't answering his phone. What shall I do?

B: You could try phoning his office.

Can I say:

You could try to phone his office.


1 Answer 1


They are both perfectly grammatical sentences, but mean different things.

You could try to phone his office.

This implies "phoning" might fail. It's like saying "Try to jump over the stream." You might fall in the water, or you might succeed.

The problem here is that "phoning" itself will almost certainly succeed. You will pick up the phone, and dial the number, and at least get a voicemail, if nothing else. You don't need to try to phone, you can definitely phone.

You could try phoning his office.

This implies what you wanted it to imply: that you are trying to reach Fred, and this is one possible solution among many.

  • Good observation! This answer convinced me that this question is not a duplicate of the one about "I love to sing".
    – Ben Kovitz
    Commented Oct 14, 2019 at 5:38

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