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I want to say that in a near past I tried to run a computer program,but it didn't work.

What is the difference between the following sentences:

1 I tried to run the computer program,but it didn't work.

2 I was trying to run the computer program,but it didn't work.

3 I tried running the computer program,but it didn't work.

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    They all mean the same, but I was trying suggests that you went on trying repeatedly for some time. Apr 1, 2020 at 12:05

1 Answer 1

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1 I tried to run the computer program, but it didn't work.

This is probably what you want and is the simplest form.

2 I was trying to run the computer program, but it didn't work.

The implication here is that you tried running it over a period of time (maybe you made several attempts) and then stopped, or you tried and you were interrupted (you tried and it crashed). For example, if someone asked "Why aren't you running the computer program?", you could reply using this form.

However, I would suggest that normally you would follow "but" by a reason that better describes why you had to stop ("it crashed", "it caused an error").

3 I tried running the computer program, but it didn't work.

You might prefer this form if "running the computer program" was not the primary goal, but rather something to be done to achieve something else.

For example:

"Did you try switching it off and on again?" against "Did you try to switch it off and on again?" In the first case, you might be trying to resolve a separate issue with the computer. In the second case, the action of switching it off and on is the main focus. However, the differences can be subtle.

Another case is where the gerund (...ing) refers to an activity.

I tried to swim but I found it tiring. (I did it once).

I tried swimming but I found it tiring. (I tried the activity of swimming).

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