I tried to order/ordering a book on line but I did not succeed.

I think "to order" is better

I know the difference between "try to" or "try verbing" ("try to" means we made an effort but he did not work) ("try verbing" means try another way to do it to solve the situation) so the first seems better.


2 Answers 2


With the catenative verb "try", the meaning depends on the kind of subordinate clause functioning as its complement. For example:

[1] You should try to eat less.

[2] You should try eating less.

In [1] "try" means "endeavour", while in [2] it means "test the effectiveness of".

Now compare your examples:

[3] I tried to order a book on line but I did not succeed.

[4] I tried ordering a book on line but I did not succeed.

[3] is fine where, like in [1], "tried" means "endeavoured". But [4] is wrong since it makes little sense to say that your testing the effectiveness of ordering a book on line did not succeed.

Edited for accuracy and improved clarity.

  • I would disagree that there's a difference in meaning here. Both uses of "tried" here mean "attempted". I strongly disagree that [2] is "tested the effectiveness of", which is honestly a pretty rare usage of the word "tried". That definition exists, but surely not in this context... "The horse was tried, but found wanting." would be one such case. You can see that it doesn't mean this in [2] because the focus changes from "the order" to "me", whereas in my horse example, "the horse" is the focus throughout. Commented Jun 21, 2022 at 7:13

Neither option is really better than the other. Both are correct grammatically and idiomatically; that is to say, both are commonly used by native speakers.

You could say that "to order" puts slightly more emphasis on the process of the order itself, while using "ordering a book" places slightly less emphasis on the process of ordering1 and so gives slightly more emphasis to the failure, but this is a very minor thing. The two sentences are mostly identical in meaning.

1 - "ordering a book" spreads out the listener's attention to both the order and the book, which slightly de-emphasizes both.

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