3

Is there any difference in meaning between "Spending more time trying to....." and "Spending more time to try to....."?

Below is the headline of an online news article I just read this morning, and I am wondering if the "trying" in the sentence is interchangeable with "to try" without changing any meaning of the entire sentence. If not, what's the difference?

"Spending more time trying to fall asleep rather than actually sleeping? You're not alone."

  • Thank you, Mari-Lou A, for your input, but the point of my question actually has nothing to do with neither "try doing" nor "try to do". Let me quote two sample sentences to explain my point. 1) Are you spending hours to fall asleep? 2) Are you spending hours falling asleep? Do these two sentences sound same? – TeeBee Jun 8 at 10:10
  • 'Trying' present participle. As in 'I am trying to fall asleep'. Try Verb. 'I have been spending more time to try to fall asleep'. Whereas 'Spending more time trying to' mixes the past and present tenses up. – charmer Jun 8 at 12:49
  • the point of my question actually has nothing to do with neither "try doing" nor "try to do". You could've fooled me! I read, I am wondering if the "trying" in the sentence is interchangeable with "to try" without changing any meaning of the entire sentence in your question – Mari-Lou A Jun 10 at 18:50
  • 1
    The issue is not about try. It's about what complement the phrase spend time takes: it overwhelmingly takes an -ing clause rather than a "to" infinitive clause. I've voted to reopen, because the closure was on a faulty argument. – Colin Fine Aug 27 at 10:06
6

As I see it, the difference is one of emphasis:

Spending more time trying to […]

This suggests that you are continually trying to achieve your aim, throughout the whole period of time.

Spending more time to try to […]

This suggests that you are taking extra time in order to increase your chance of achieving your aim.

So the former focusses on your actions (successful or not), while the latter focusses on the intended result (regardless of what you're doing to achieve it).

In the quoted headline, the ‘trying to’ highlights the process — the lying awake, fretting — rather than the result, and allows for the possibility that the attempt might be ultimately unsuccessful.

| improve this answer | |
2

In this specific case, you cannot switch out the word "trying" with "to try" because the sentence has parallel structure. This article might do a better job explaining than I, but, basically, the two sides of "rather than" should have identical grammatical structure. Since "to try" is infinitive and "trying" is a gerund, only "trying" fits with "sleeping."

| improve this answer | |
  • Thank you for the explanation. It is quite understandable, but what if the sentence does not include the parallel structure like the below one? Can the "trying" be switchable to "to try" or not? "Spending an hour or two trying to fall asleep? You're not alone." – TeeBee Jun 8 at 5:35

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.