There are 2 main definitions of try in English:

Share this entry

try 1

Pronunciation: /trʌɪ/

verb (tries, trying, tried)

1 [no object] Make an attempt or effort to do something: [with infinitive]: he tried to regain his breath I started to try and untangle the mystery I decided to try writing fiction [with object]: three times he tried the manoeuvre and three times he failed
More example sentences
  • I tried to be a sales executive, a sailor and even got married to try and fit into the role of a good wife.
  • So we though we would give it a try and much to our surprise from the very first time that we tried to grow these blood vessels it worked.
  • She tried to make herself fall asleep so she could try and forget the situation she was in.
undertake, aim, set out, take it on oneself;
informal have a go/shot/crack/stab/bash, give it one's best shot, bend/lean over backwards, bust a gut, do one's damnedest, pull out all the stops, go all out, go for broke, knock oneself out, break one's neck, move heaven and earth
Australian/New Zealand informal give it a burl, give it a fly
formal essay
archaic assay
1.1 [with object] (also try something out) Use, test, or do (something new or different) in order to see if it is suitable, effective, or pleasant: everyone wanted to know if I’d tried jellied eel these methods are tried and tested
More example sentences
  • There are many tried and tested methods that have been used in Europe before.
  • Parents will be able to try different sorts and if they like them can buy their own stock.
  • Please bear in mind that I have seen a lot of therapists who try different kinds of therapy.
1.2 (try for) Attempt to achieve or attain: they decided to try for another baby
More example sentences
  • The first two attempts had failed and the third attempt was my last chance to try for a baby.
  • Sheila is determined to rebuild her family and the couple are already trying for another baby.
  • Existing advice is for pregnant women and those trying for a baby is not to eat large amounts of the species because of concerns over mercury.
1.3 (try out for) North American Compete or audition for (a post or place on a team): she tried out for the team
More example sentences
  • She decided to enroll at and compete for UCLA in the fall, instead of trying out for Canada's team that will compete at the World Championships in late October.
  • Simon was so good, in fact, that he went on to compete at the national level before trying out for professional teams, although his eyesight, of all things, kept him from making the grade.
  • Natalie is trying out for the school team on January 22.
1.4 [with object] Attempt to contact: I’ve tried the apartment, but the number is engaged
More example sentences
  • We tried the apartment, but after that we didn't know where to call.
  • He tried the house, but we were not home.
1.5 [with object] Push or pull (a door or window) to determine whether it is locked: I tried the doors, but they were locked
More example sentences
  • At his front door, a somewhat buxom blonde lady with very high heels and a very short skirt was trying the front door lock.
  • He tried the door again and discovered that it wasn't locked, just a little stuck.
  • She tried the windows but they were also locked and when she threw things at them they didn't even crack.
1.6 [with object] Make severe demands on (a person or a quality, typically patience): Mary tried everyone’s patience to the limit
More example sentences
  • As cricket has discovered the game has to be approachable and rain delays try the patience of everyone.
  • She tried my patience sometimes, but equally I probably didn't give enough of a chance.
  • After a year of sustained eyebrow raising and boomerang pints, they now no longer try my patience or my vocal chords.
tax, make severe demands on, strain, put a strain on, test, stretch, sap, drain, exhaust, wear out, tire out, weary
2 [with object] Subject (someone) to trial: he was arrested and tried for the murder
More example sentences
  • Sam was duly tried and convicted on the conspiracy count but the Appellant was not called as a witness at that trial.
  • Within two days, both men were tried, convicted and sentenced to two years' jail.
  • The soldiers were subsequently tried by a regimental court martial and acquitted.
2.1Investigate and decide (a case or issue) in a formal trial: the case is to be tried by a jury in the Crown Court
More example sentences
  • The actions were consolidated and the judge agreed to try preliminary issues which are the subject of this appeal.
  • The information is invalid and as such this Court has no jurisdiction to try the issue arising therefrom.
  • This I have done and I have told him that I can see no reason why I should not continue to try the case.
adjudicate, consider, hear, pass judgement on, adjudge, examine
3 [with object] Smooth (roughly planed wood) with a plane to give an accurately flat surface.
4 [with object] Extract (oil or fat) by heating: some of the fat may be tried out and used
More example sentences
  • Then he built a big fire and skinned the bears, and tried out the fat and poured it into a hollow in the ground.
  • Then after they had cut it up, she tried out the fat and made a great quantity of oil from the bear.
  • He tried out the fat and made lard.

noun (plural tries)

1An effort to accomplish something; an attempt: he got his membership card on his third try
More example sentences
  • It just took me a few weeks and just a few tries to accomplish all that.
  • Then my foot slipped off on only the second move of my third try.
  • Otherwise why would they have come back for a second and a third try?
1.1An act of trying something new or different to see if it is suitable, effective, or pleasant: she agreed that they should give the idea a try
More example sentences
  • Even if the idea seems strange, give it a try, as you have nothing to lose, but only to gain.
  • I didn't even know if asking her was a good idea or not, but I'll give it a try and see what happens.
  • It was getting excellent reviews there, so I decided to give it a try.
2 Rugby An act of touching the ball down behind the opposing goal line, scoring points and entitling the scoring side to a kick at goal.
Example sentences
  • We can find out about games played, tries scored, goals kicked, brothers and fathers, referees, captains and so on.
  • The action was fast moving and skilful, enterprising and well judged and both sides produced two tries and two penalty kicks.
  • While he was off the pitch the Giants scored two tries and a drop goal took their lead to 15-12.
2.1 American Football An attempt to score an extra point after a touchdown.
Example sentences
  • In the four games leading up to the season finale, Brown missed six of 11 tries plus three extra points.
  • If the Packers plan to win their 10th game in 11 tries against the Niners, they'll have to control the ball with the running game.
  • Philadelphia converted one of every three third-down tries.


Is there any difference between try to plus infinitive and try and plus infinitive in sentences such as we should try to (or try and) help them? In practice there is little discernible difference in meaning, although there is a difference in formality, with try to being regarded as more formal than try and. The construction try and is grammatically odd, however, in that it cannot be inflected for tense (e.g. sentences like she tried and fix it or they are trying and renew their visa are not acceptable, while their equivalents she tried to fix it or they are trying to renew their visa undoubtedly are). For this reason try and is best regarded as a fixed idiom used only in its infinitive and imperative form. See also and (usage).



I (or he etc.) will try anything once

Used to indicate willingness to do or experience something new: Rosie was willing to try anything once
More example sentences
  • ‘I will try anything once,’ she declared, and proved it in her eighties by flying on Concorde, taking a trip in a helicopter and ascending in a hot air balloon.
  • I like everything, and I will try anything once, but for the most part I go for a simple style with clean lines.
  • While I haven't been exposed to a lot of exotic places or foods, I am just not a very picky eater and I will try anything once.

not for lack (or want) of trying

Used to express that considerable effort has been exerted even though success has not been attained: the band never quite gets it together, but it’s not for lack of trying
More example sentences
  • Those commitments that I haven't been able to keep, it's not for lack of trying.
  • I still haven't won a round, but it's not for lack of trying.
  • He may not be a household name, but that's not for lack of trying.

try conclusions with


try something (on) for size

Assess whether something is suitable: he was trying the role for size
More example sentences
  • It was a different kind of acting, because the feelings were real, but it was like the two of them were trying the feelings on for size, like clothes to see if they fitted, and to see if they suited them.
  • Asked how he feels about one hack's overwrought description of him as ‘the feathercut prince of the blues ‘, he frowns, repeats the phrase slowly and inquisitively as if trying it on for size, then quickly changes the subject.’
  • So perhaps we shouldn't take it too seriously, but try these statements on for size.

try for white

South African historical (Under the apartheid system) attempt to pass oneself off as a white person by assimilating oneself into a white community: he tried for white but was rejected and took on an African identity
More example sentences
  • It started in the 1960s and spilt over into the 1970s, a time when white-skinned people ‘of mixed descent’ consciously tried for white to acquire a privileged position in South African society.
  • He recalled that when he went off to college he "tried for white," aping the manners and attitudes of the English and Afrikaners; rejected, he turned instead to the solace of black consciousness.
  • She takes the audience on a sweeping journey from their childhood when they 'tried for white' by playing with white kids on the beach, to helping Patty confront the sacrifices she would have to make to be with the man she loved.

try one's hand at

Attempt to do (something) for the first time, typically in order to find out if one is good at it: a chance to try your hand at the ancient art of drystone walling
More example sentences
  • He even tried his hand at drawing in an attempt to capture the movement of the situations he found fascinating, but later realised that the camera does a better job, he says.
  • We intend to buy a rundown property: it's something we have always fancied trying our hand at - a blank canvas on which to make our mark.
  • Now he is trying his hand at more formal history.

try it on

British informal
Attempt to deceive or seduce someone: he was trying it on with my wife
More example sentences
  • "He's trying it on with me but he's got a 7 months pregnant girlfriend!"
  • The line manager should not be 'trying it on' with workers - that is sexual harassment.
7.1Deliberately test someone’s patience to see how much one can get away with.

try one's luck

see luck.

try me

Used to suggest that one may be willing to do something unexpected or unlikely: ‘You won’t use a gun up here.’ ‘Try me.’
More example sentences
  • If they do not take me as serious, they have to try me.
  • You can't tell me because I wouldn't understand it,’ he replied sarcastically, ‘Why don't you just try me.’
  • I think my life has given me plenty of understanding, so try me.

Phrasal verbs

try something on

Put on an item of clothing to see if it fits or suits one.
Example sentences
  • First I went through the racks of clothing and tried them on.
  • Like with any piece of clothing, you really need to try jeans on to see how they work.
  • Some male customers felt uncomfortable when women were there as they were trying things on.


Middle English: from Old French trier 'sift', of unknown origin. Sense 1 of the noun dates from the early 17th century.

  • From Old French trier ‘to sift’, source also of trial (early 16th century). In rugby an act of touching the ball down behind the opposing goal line has been called a try since the 1840s. It got its name because a try gives the scoring side the right to try to kick a goal. The cliché try anything once, dates from the 1920s. The British conductor Sir Thomas Beecham (1879–1961) is generally credited with ‘You should try everything once except incest and morris dancing’, but the composer Sir Arnold Bax reported a similar comment in a 1943 autobiography.

Words that rhyme with try

ally, Altai, apply, assai, awry, ay, aye, Baha'i, belie, bi, Bligh, buy, by, bye, bye-bye, chi, Chiangmai, Ciskei, comply, cry, Cy, Dai, defy, deny, Di, die, do-or-die, dry, Dubai, dye, espy, eye, fie, fly, forbye, fry, Frye, goodbye (US goodby), guy, hereby, hi, hie, high, I, imply, I-spy, July, kai, lie, lye, Mackay, misapply, my, nearby, nigh, Nye, outfly, passer-by, phi, pi, pie, ply, pry, psi, Qinghai, rai, rely, rocaille, rye, scry, serai, shanghai, shy, sigh, sky, Skye, sky-high, sly, spin-dry, spry, spy, sty, Sukhotai, supply, Tai, Thai, thereby, thigh, thy, tie, Transkei, tumble-dry, underlie, Versailles, Vi, vie, whereby, why, wry, Wye, xi, Xingtai, Yantai

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: try

Share this entry

There are 2 main definitions of try in English:

Share this entry



For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: TRY

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.