I'm aware of two ways to say "try"

1) verb-てみる Try (for the first time) to see how it is

2) verb-vol とする

Now, I've seen it said that 2) is used when failure is involved e.g. I tried to answer the phone but I didn't get there in time. But it thought it was more generally used for "I'll attempt to do something and it will probably work out fine, but there may be difficulties.

Yesterday I wrote this sentence:


I'm trying to read a book called Chibi Maruko-chan.

Some people said the sentence was fine but I got two corrections:


I think I will read ちびまる子ちゃん and I'm reading it (my literal translation)


I think I will read ちびまる子ちゃん (my literal translation)

I'm puzzled. What has "thinking about reading" got to do with "trying to read"? Have I misunderstood how to use verb-vol とする? Thanks.

2 Answers 2


Trying to read can sometimes be indistinguishable from thinking of reading, in that you may not have started the act of reading at all. Maybe this ambiguity prompted those “corrections”.

1. I was trying to read X, but it's out of print.

In this case, 読もうと思ったが絶版{ぜっぱん}だ is pretty much the same as 読もうとしたが絶版だ. You are at the purely volitional stage, or attempting to start reading, and not in the midst of reading. Then it can safely be rephrased as I was thinking of reading or I was going to read.

Many uses of 〜ようとする are in this category, where you can replace it with 〜と思う without consequence. For example, these sentences are basically the same, so much that it would be inappropriate to translate it as trying:

I was going to leave but then it started raining so I didn't.

2. I was trying to read X, and I had trouble with this sentence.

When you have clearly started reading, 読もうと思う is obviously not a suitable choice. 読もうとする is not wrong, but if you want to make it absolutely clear that you are in the attempt of reading (and not just attempting to start reading), you can also say something like:


This can have the nuance of trying something new or challenging, and doesn't have to be as weighty as a challenge per se. 新しい食べ物に挑戦しよう (Let's try a new food), いつもは聴かない{きかない}音楽{おんがく}に挑戦した (I tried some music I don't usually listen to), etc.



carries a more positive meaning. You say to your friend that "you have thought about reading it".


means you attempted to read the book, but in the end you didn't manage to do it.

It can also mean that you are trying to read it at this very moment. When you use the corrected sentence, it will mean you wanted to read it at some point in time, but not when you are pronouncing the sentence.

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