I read the following in a technical manual:

Three consecutive start attempts are permitted without cooldown. After the third start attempt, the starter motor must cool down for at least 60 minutes.

Then this is echoed in a user manual:

After three consecutive start attempts, the crew must wait 60 min before a new start attempt.

A start procedure takes about a minute, and I see two possible interpretations:

  1. The motor cannot be started 4 times in a short period of time.
  2. If the motor fails to start 3 times in a row, you need to wait 60 minutes before trying again.

Which interpretation is more correct?

In future or present tenses, "attempt" does not imply success or failure, as an "attempt" could end in success. But in past-tense, I'm not so sure.

Arguments for interpretation 1:

  • "successful attempt" is not an oxymoron.
  • "Was his skydiving record attempt a success?" is a reasonable question.

Arguments for interpretation 2:

  • Interpretation 1 is not well defined. Only the time between the 3rd and 4th start is defined, leaving the time between the 1st and 3rd start unconstrained (if you typically do one start per day, then it doesn't make sense to wait 60min between the 3rd and 4th starts). Therefore interpretation 2 results in a clearer instruction.
  • We always refer to a coup-d'etat in past-tense as a "successful coup" or an "attempted coup" (failure implied).

2 Answers 2


Your two given contexts imply failure, yes. If it says something after the "attempt" to retry it, it implies that you have failed and have to wait for the next try. If one just says:

I attempted this twice.

Then it is not possible to tell whether it implies failure or sucess.


To attempt something is to try do do it; in other words, it is the intention, which is independent of the outcome. Only after the attempt, in other words in the past tense, can the outcome be known, which is where adjectives such as successful can be added. https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/attempt

Both the examples given refer to consecutive attempts, which by definition must follow on without interruption. https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/consecutive

To make full sense of the examples (which would have been written with knowledgeable readers in mind) it helps to think in terms of starting a car engine using its starter motor. The starter motor will overheat if used for excessively long periods so must be kept within its duty cycle, and allowed to rest for 60 minutes after three attempts to start the engine. https://www.news.benevelli-group.com/index.php/en/88-what-motor-duty-cycle.html

There are infinite (and undefined) possibilities of timing the attempts, but the instructions give the one most likely in real life.

You must log in to answer this question.