" I've gotta try harder at school."

It sounds like study hard at school to me. When googling it, I found try harder, try hard and trying hard. Do they have same meaning? I'm guessing:

(1) try harder is a comparative form

According to Urban dictionary:

someone who tries way to hard and spends too much time to be good at something that is pointless

(2) try hard is an original word

Wiktionary says:

A person usually of little talent who tries hard, especially through imitation, to succeed, usually to gain fame or popularity.

(3) trying hard is a gerund. No. 3 definition by Urban dictionary:

trying hard

a person who struggles to achieve something but he/she is hopelessly doing it in other words, they won't be able to do their task whatever they do


  • 1
    Number two is a bit of recent slang and I don't recommend using it. – snailplane Sep 11 '15 at 6:20

If your question is - do they mean the same? The answer is no, they don't!

For the sentence in concerned, it's simple - if you gotta try harder at school, you mean that 'compared to your tries till now, you need to try more hard (harder)'.

For example, let's build a context -

If you are a sincere student and aim to rank first in the class. The result is out and you stood second. You may say...

I need to try harder at school

What all you tried got you the second rank, trying harder will push you to the first!

In a bad case, if you failed, you may still say...

I need to try harder at school

So that, you pass the next exams.

I'll address your concern 'practically'.

When you replace 'harder' (the comparative degree) with 'hard', you don't do comparison.

You tried hard, and got the second rank. You should try harder to get the first.

'trying' is continuous tense in this context with no change in the meaning.

I'm trying hard/harder to get the better rank.

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Yes, 'try harder' in this sentence implies attempting to improve one's study habits in class and outside of class and, as a result, receive better grades.

To answer your second question, I would argue that 'try hard' and 'try harder' in the sentence above have the same or nearly the same meaning, depending on the context.

'To try hard' means to give an effort to do something. 'To try harder' means to give an effort to do something, implying that previous efforts, whether performed diligently or from lack of effort, did not achieve the desired result. We cannot know from the above sentence whether the subject made a strong effort the first time.

Therefore, if I was lazy the first time, I could 'try harder'. Or, if I was diligent the first time, I could 'try harder'.

If a boy is telling his mother, 'I will try hard' or 'I will try harder' while she is scolding him with his grade sheet in her hand, in this case, the meaning would be the same because, whether 'He tries hard' or 'He tries harder', she knows that this is not his first attempt.

'Trying hard' implies the same type of actions described above, but because the verb is in present progressive tense, we understand that this is an action in progress, as opposed to an effort that will be made in the future.

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