We have two ways to say “try” in Japanese, but the correct structure depends on the context. The distinction is made based on whether the action of trying requires effort. For instance, you could argue that trying to solve a problem and trying the new restaurant down the road have different meanings. The former requires some effort on your behalf and there’s no guarantee that you will succeed; the latter just requires you to find a free evening. Japanese makes a distinction here and you need to be aware of this when choosing the grammar.

The good news is that we’ve already learnt the grammar required to piece together both structures.

Give Something a Try

JLPT N4. Core grammar.

This structure combines the te form of the action verb with the verb “to see”—you will do something that then “see” the result.

【Verb: te Form】みる

When used in this way みる is usually written in hiragana.

そのみせがいつもんでいるけど、予約よやくてみるね。
That restaurant is always busy, but I’ll try and book.
こうかんがてみてください。
Try thinking about it in this way.
サンバをやってみようとおもっている。
I’m thinking of giving Samba a go.

This structure is used to imply that you will try something for the first time.

レバノン料理りょうりてみたいです。
I want to try Lebanese food.
昨日きのう納豆なっとうてみたんだけど、やっぱりあまりきじゃなかった。
I tried natto yesterday but, as I suspected, I didn’t really like it.

やはり and its more informal version, やっぱり, are used to express that the result is as you thought. In this case, you suspected that you wouldn’t like natto before you tried it and it turned out to be the case.

Make an Effort to Try

JLPT N3. Used less often than 〜てみる but still core grammar. Introduced here as a comparison.

Here you will you make an effort towards doing something but cannot guarantee the result.

【Verb: Volitional】とする

For the sake of example, let’s use this form on one the example sentences above:

レバノン料理りょうりようとする。()
I’ll make an effort to try Lebanese food.

This sentence is unnatural because it implies that trying Lebanese food is in some way a challenge when in fact all you would need to do is walk into a Lebanese restaurant and order from the menu! Hence in this case ~てみる is the correct grammar.

問題もんだい解決けいけつようとします
To try and solve the problem.
ひとかんがかたようとする
Try and change someone’s way of thinking.
泥棒どろぼうようとしたけど、だめだった。
The robber tried to escape but it was no good.

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