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Is this correct/idiomatic?

I've tried but it didn't work.

I've tried ( when? a time, or multiple times, in my life hence present perfect)

It didn't work. (When? When I tried, a specificfinished situation)

How about

I've tried but it hasn't worked.

I've tried. (when? a time, or multiple times, in my life hence present perfect)

It hasn't worked. (When? A time, or multiple times, in my life)

I think I've heard the first one in movies or TV shows. I wonder if the second one is also used and idiomatic.

1 Answer 1

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  • (1) I tried but it didn't work.
  • (2) I've tried but it didn't work.
  • (3) I've tried but it hasn't worked.

Sentence (1) (not in the question) suggests that a single trial was made. Sentence (2) could indicate either a single trial or multiple trials. Sentence (3) suggests repeated trials, but might be used for a single trial. In each case the trial is at some (unspecified) time in the past, and the action is completed. There is no indication that the speaker intends to try again. But, particularly in casual speech, a fluent speaker might well disregard any of these implications, and use any of the three forms. Such deductions should not be depended on in actual life.

All three forms are grammatically valid, and a fluent speaker might well use any of them, depending on the situation. All three should be used with additional context, to make it clear what "it", is and perhaps why or how it didn't work.

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  • Are you sure about number (2) being grammatical? If the second part is simple past, it does not have any extension to the present, so how can "trying" extend to present? "Trying" happened before "working". If the "working" is in simple past, how can "trying" be in present perfect, whereas it took place even before "working"?
    – Yunus
    Commented Mar 9, 2023 at 8:07

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