She reveals the truth: Clare Quilty, an acquaintance of Charlotte's, the writer of the school play, and the man Lolita claims to have loved, checked her out of the hospital after following them throughout their travels and tried making her star in one of his pornographic films. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lolita)

I guess after tried there needs to be to-infinitive to denote afterward plan to make her star. Why is there –ing object of tried?

2 Answers 2


Without knowing the actual events it's impossible to be sure, but I think you're right, and what is meant is

Clare tried to make her star in one of his pornographic films.

That means that he sought to compel Charlotte to appear in his film.

The idiom "try VERBing* means "to VERB as an experiment":

I tried seasoning the chicken with anise, but it was not very good.
He tried traveling by train for a while and found it much less stressful.

Your sentence would be correct only if what Clare did was "try the experiment of making her star", which seems very unlikely.

  • I think in this case it's more likely that "making" means 'to force somebody to do something against their will' She probably didn't want to star in a porno. "Tried making" means she made an attempt to force her to star in the movie, but did not succeed in doing so."
    – Jim
    Commented May 3, 2013 at 5:51
  • @Jim I think that is what is meant; but that should be, as OP suggests, Tried to make her star. I have edited to make this clearer. Commented May 3, 2013 at 11:51

Both "tried making" and "tried to make" would be grammatically correct. However, there is a subtle but significant difference between "tried making" and "tried to make" in this sentence.

... and tried making her star in...

The tense here is past continuous, which implies that he tried over a duration of time (i.e. more than once) to make her star in a film.

Compare this to the sentence if it was changed to the past simple tense.

... and tried to make her star in...

Now the implication is that he tried just once to make her star in a film.

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