So my question came up because of the verb "try".

I'll give you an example of a situation: John is mad at Mary. So Peter tells Mary to try talking to him, to make things good between the two of them.

And then a fourth person comes in and says "What is Mary doing?", to what Peter replies "She is trying talking to him.". My doubt is: Can we have these two gerunds in this order? Does that make the sentece sound weird, or is it just me?

Because Mary isn't trying to talk to John, she is trying to make things better betwen the two of them, and she does that by talking to John. That's why I think that the gerund must be used after the verb try in this situation. But does it make the sentence sound weird?

  • 1
    Yes, you want talk in the -ing form in this construction, and Yes, it sounds 'weird' - see this question and (for background) this answer. In circumstances like these the solution is to rewrite, with different 'information packaging'. For instance: She's looking to see if talking to him will help ... Dec 4, 2014 at 13:03
  • By the way: the first -ing form is not a gerund - that term is reserved for use of the -ing form as a noun. Dec 4, 2014 at 13:04

2 Answers 2


You can have two gerunds:

She is trying hang-gliding to see if she can get used to heights.

but normally the second gerund is an activity or sport, not a mere action. If it's a mere action we'd normally use the infinitive: She's trying to talk to him. That said, "she's trying talking to him" is not all that unusual.

P.S. Actually, as StoneyB points out, the first, trying, is not a gerund but a progressive. I must need more coffee.

  • I think not - as OP understands, trying to talk means something different from trying talking, "attempting to hold a conversation" as opposed "testing the efficacy of holding a conversation". Dec 4, 2014 at 13:06
  • But "trying to talk" can have both meanings, attempting to speak, and seeing if speaking will have the desired effect. "I'll try to talk to him to see if that will do any good." Or "to see if he will listen". Dec 4, 2014 at 13:08

In this case, "trying talking" is correct.

If you change nothing but the verb tense, it sounds completely natural:

She is going to try talking to him. / She will try talking to him.
She has tried talking to him. / She tried talking to him.

So despite the possible tongue-twisting that comes from stringing too many "ing" words together, "She is trying talking to him" is perfectly valid.

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