There's some confusion between different ways to say "try":

  • 시도하다
  • 노력하다
  • ~려고 하다
  • ~어/아 보다

Are they used differently, or are the interchangeable?


2 Answers 2


They are not all interchangeable, and have somewhat different meanings.

  • 시도하다
    • A verb meaning, "to attempt [something]"
    • It's typically used more in writing or formal situations, and in speech is not super common.

      "He attempted suicide" ("He tried to kill himself.") => 자살을 시도했어요

  • 노력하다
    • A verb with the meaning of "To exert effort." It is often used in phrases that translate to the English verb "try."

      "I tried, but it didn't work out" => 노력했는데 안 됐어요.

  • ~려고 하다 (하려고 하다, 먹으려고 하다, etc)
    • A grammar form meaning, vaguely, "with intent to..."
    • Often used when, in English, we would say "I tried to do [x]"

      "He tried to kill me!" => 저를 죽이려고 했어요!

  • ~아/어 보다 (해 보다, 먹어 보다, etc)
    • A grammar form that typically implies trying something to see what happens, to get the experience.

      "Have you tried (eating) Kimchi?" => 김치 먹어 봤어요?

  • Could you add 노력하다 to the list?
    – 파울울
    Jun 22, 2016 at 16:40
  • @파울울 ah good call, edited into the answer.
    – user12
    Jun 22, 2016 at 17:51
  • 시도하다 : 試圖 + 하다, more formal version of '아/어 보다'.

  • ~아/어 보다 : literal meaning is "see(보다) what happen". I don't think this phrase implies trying or planning.

  • ~려고 하다 : interchangeable with "~할 계획이다". Meaning one has a plan, intentions, or a goal.

c.f. "노력하다" is most popular (and almost exact counterpart) word for "trying (with effort)".

  • 하려고 하다 is only interchangeable with 할 계획이다 in limited contexts, certainly not in general.
    – user12
    Jun 22, 2016 at 15:40
  • @dotVezz Maybe you are right, but I can't imagine a counter example right now...
    – 9dan
    Jun 22, 2016 at 15:56
  • One good example is something like "He tried to kill me!" 저를 죽이려고 했어요! If you changed that to 저를 죽일 계획이었어요 then it changes the meaning greatly and without any context, it implies that no action was taken - he planned to kill me, but changed his mind - while ~려고 했어요 implies that action was taken.
    – user12
    Jun 22, 2016 at 17:55
  • @dotVezz I understand your point. By the way, one can rewrite 죽이려고 했어요 to 죽일 계획이었다고 생각한다, change of tone and formalism(?).
    – 9dan
    Jun 23, 2016 at 1:53

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