Verb + -ing or to... (2)

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Verb + -ing or to... (2)

A. Try to... and try -ing

Try to do = attempt to do, make an effort to do:
  • I was very tired. I tried to keep my eyes open but I couldn't.
  • Please try to be quiet when you come home. Everyone will be asleep.
Try also means 'do something as an experiment or test'. For example:
  • These cakes are delicious. You must try one. (= you must have one to see if you like it)
  • We couldn't find anywhere to stay. We tried every hotel in the town but they were all full.                                                                      (= we went to every hotel to see if they had a room)
If try (with this meaning) is followed by a verb, we say try -ing:
A: The photocopier doesn't seem to be working.
B: Try pressing the green button. (= press the green button - perhaps this will help to solve the problem)
  • I tried to move the table but it was too heavy, (so I couldn't move it)
  • I didn't like the way the furniture was arranged, so I tried moving the table to the other side of the room. But it still didn't look right, so I moved it back again.

B. Need to... and need -ing

I need to do something = it is necessary for me to do it:
  • I need to take more exercise.
  • He needs to work harder if he wants to make progress.
  • I don't need to come to the meeting, do I?
Something needs doing = something needs to be done:
  • The batteries in the radio need changing. (= they need to be changed)
  • Do you think my jacket needs cleaning? (= ...needs to be cleaned)
  • It's a difficult problem. It needs thinking about very carefully. (= it needs to be thought about)

C. Help and can't help

You can say 'help to do' or 'help do' (infinitive with or without to):

  • Everybody helped to clean up after the party,     or Everybody helped clean up...
  • Can you help me to move this table?         or  Can you help me move...

There is also an expression 'can't/couldn't help doing something' = I can't stop myself from doing it:

  • I don't like him but he has a lot of problems. I can't help feeling sorry for him.
  • She tried to be serious but she couldn't help laughing. (= she couldn't stop herself from laughing)
  • I'm sorry I'm so nervous. I can't help it. (= I can't help being nervous)


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