I have come across a couple of concepts that seem relatively similar, but I would like an understanding on their differences, if any.

The first is the dictionary/ない form + ようとする. And the other is the conjugated volitional form (or よう form) + にする. I have seen both to mean essentially attempted to do that verb.

So for example, the difference between 取ろうとする and 取るようにする.

For example, TaeKim seems to use the volitional form, while The Essential Japanese uses the ようにする form. Are there any differences?

TaeKim: http://www.guidetojapanese.org/try.html#part3

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    Please double check: (よ)うとする is preceded by the volitional form, not nai-form. – naruto Mar 23 '16 at 4:02
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    Thanks for the correction. Am I correct in saying that volitional とする and  ようにする have the same meaning "to attempt to do..."? – Naruto Mar 23 '16 at 4:30
  • The title is misleading. – Money Sets You Free Jan 15 '17 at 17:22

The (よ)う in ~(よ)うとする is volitional. ~(よ)うとする means "try to do ~~" "be about to do ~~", and is attached to the 未然形 (imperfective form) of verbs, as in 「[走]{はし}ろ+うとする」「[歩]{ある}こ+うとする」「[見]{み}+ようとする」etc.

  • 私は母を手伝おうとしました。 I tried to help my mother.
  • 日が沈もうとしています。 The sun is about to set.
  • 出かけようとすると、雨が降ってきました。 When I was about to go out, it started to rain.

~(よ)うとする cannot be attached to ~ない. One way of saying "try not to ~~" would be ~まいとする, e.g. 「走るまいとする」「歩くまいとする」「見まいとする」 etc.
~まいとする sounds a bit literary, and you can instead use ~ないようにする in most cases, like 「走らないようにする」「歩かないようにする」.)

The ように in ~ようにする is 比況・例示・推定の助動詞 (auxiliary of similarity, example or inference) [様]{よう}だ. ~ようにする can mean "make sure that ~~" "make an effort so that ~~" "try to ~~", and is attached to the dictionary form and the ない-form of verbs, as in 「歩く+ようにする」「走らない+ようにする」「見る+ようにする」「見ない+ようにする」, etc.

  • 毎日母を手伝うようにします。 I'll make sure I'll help my mother every day.
  • 宿題を忘れないようにします。 I'll make sure I won't forget my homework (in the future).
  • 犬に近づかないようにしました。(≂ 近づくまいとしました。) I tried not to get close to the dog.
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