Is it grammatically correct to say "will tried to be" in a sentence like: "He will [be?] tried to be contacted 3 times" or "Data will [be?] tried to be retrieved from the database"?

If yes, is there a difference between these usages, and what is the grammatical structure of a sentence with omitted "be"?

  • Although this doesn't answer your question, you could say "Three attempts will be made to retrieve data from the database."
    – user230
    Jul 2, 2013 at 11:35
  • Also see discussion on Wikipedia of double passives.
    – user230
    Jul 2, 2013 at 11:35
  • 1
    No. You can't put intransitive verbs in the passive. The verb "try" is intransitive in "they will try to contact him three times" and "I will try to retrieve data from the database". The words "him" and "data" are the direct objects of "contact" and "retrieve", and not "try" here, so you can't make them the subject of a passive use of the word "try". Jul 2, 2013 at 12:05
  • Peter, that makes sense. So both of these variants are not grammatically correct then, right? Jul 2, 2013 at 13:43

2 Answers 2


Not quite.

You are trying to use a passive voice. In the passive voice, the subject of the sentence is the thing being acted on instead of the thing acting. So if you said simply, "He will be contacted three times," that would be a good and valid sentence. "He" is the thing being contacted.

If you were using the active voice, you might say, "We will try to contact him three times." That would also be good and valid: "We" is the subject, and the thing we are doing is "trying", and specifically what we are trying is "to contact".

But you can't switch this complex verb, "try to contact", to the passive, "He will be tried to be contacted." The problem is that "he" is not "being tried". That is, we are not trying "him", we are trying "to contact". So you can't say, "He is being tried". You want to say that the contacts are being tried, not him. To the best of my knowledge, there is no way in English to turn "verb-1 to verb-2" into a passive voice. You could convey the idea by saying, "Three contacts with him will be tried." I think that's an awkward sentence, but it's grammatically valid. I'd prefer to say, "Three tries will be made to contact him" or "Three attempts to contact him will be made". Or switch it to the active voice: "We will try to contact him three times."

Note that the structure you are using would be valid if "he" was properly the thing acted on by both verbs. For example, you could say, "He will be asked to be added to the list." This is valid because "he" is the thing being asked, and "he" is also the thing being added.

Side note: Perhaps I should make clear that "tried" IN THE SENSE THAT YOU ARE USING IT IN THIS SENTENCE is not acting on "he". The English word "try" can mean "attempt", which is how you are using it here. A person cannot be attempted. What would that mean? But "try" can also mean "put on trial", as in a courtroom with a judge and jury. In that sense, you certainly can try a person, and a person can be tried.

  • Thank you, I overlooked the intransitivity of the verb "try" indeed. Should have figured this myself. I was also misled by the fact that Google finds 500K results for “will be tried to be” and “will tried to be” combined. I will accept your answer, although Peter Shor's comment above is way shorter and simpler (no offense). Jul 2, 2013 at 15:59
  • 1
    Yes, I get wordy at times. :-) If you understand from a briefer statement, great. If not, a more detailed explanation may be helpful. Whatever.
    – Jay
    Jul 3, 2013 at 15:44
  • In the google books search, I find 216 results for "will tried to be" and nearly all of them are using "Will" as a shortened first name "William". "Will tried to be brave" for example. "Will be tried to be" has more examples, about 1480. For example "Non linear effects will be tried to be retained..."
    – BobRodes
    Jul 4, 2013 at 7:03

No, those are not correct for two reasons.

1) "Will" is the future and "tried" is the past, so they don't go together.

2) You can't use "tried" in the passive sense like that. You can say that someone tried something or that something was tried, but you can't say someone was tried to be something.

So the correct usage would be:

An attempt will be made to retrieve data from the database...


They will try to contact him three times...

  • 2
    Combining "will" and "tried" is perfectly fine in "the case will be tried by a jury." I assume the OP was aiming for something along these lines, but the improper use of the passive got in their way. Jul 2, 2013 at 15:27
  • "tried" is not the past here, it's a past participle. Jul 2, 2013 at 15:49
  • @PeterShor - Ah, yes, if they meant "Retrieving data will be tried three times" it would be correct but stilted.
    – Lynn
    Jul 2, 2013 at 16:25

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .