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鈴木はその場で目をつぶり、気を _______ のか、ゆっくりと大きく息をついた。

1 静めようとした

2 静めようとしている *

3 静めるようにしている

4 静めるようにした

1) I'm very confused about ようとする and ようにする. I do understand they have different nuance in meaning, but I still can't differentiate them, for example in the above question.

2) What is the meaning of "のか" in this question?

3) Why do they choose the ている form? I thought it was an event in the past, because of the ついた at the end.

Thank you.

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1) I'm very confused about ようとする and ようにする. I do understand they have different nuance in meaning, but I still can't differentiate them, for example in the above question.

よう in (静め)ようとする is the volitional auxiliary よう.
It attaches to the imperfective form (未然形) of a verb. (「静め」 is 未然形)

ように in (静める)ようにする is the 連用形 of the 比況/例示 auxiliary ようだ(様だ).
It attaches to the attributive form (連体形) of a verb. (「静める」 is 連体形)

Basically, ~ようとする means "try to do~~", and ~ようにする means "make sure that~~". For example:

宿題をしようとしました。I tried to do my homework.
毎日宿題をするようにしました。I made sure that I do my homework every day.

For more examples, please see this thread: Understand the difference between [dictionary/ない + ようとする] and [volitional + にする]

2) What is the meaning of "のか" in this question?

It means "as if". 「気を静めようとしているのか、」"as if trying to calm down,"
(The の is a nominalizer and the か is a question particle.)

3) Why do they choose the ている form? I thought it was an event in the past, because of the ついた at the end.

The tense of a Japanese verb is relative to the time when the main action takes place. Here, the main action is ついた at the end, and it's the past tense form, but regardless of the tense of the main verb you use している, not していた, since ようとしている occurred at the same time as ついた, not before ついた.

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    Tae Kim has ようにする to mean "try to" not "make sure that". Is he wrong? guidetojapanese.org/learn/complete/trying – Francis Davey Nov 14 '18 at 13:22
  • @Francis I don't think he's wrong. I think he translated it as "try to" cos it's more natural in these examples or in normal conversation. I tried to contrast the difference of (する)ようにする and (し)ようとする so mine is more like a literal translation. (Also, in negative, you use しないようにする ≂ しまいとする. See: japanese.stackexchange.com/a/33077/9831) – Chocolate Nov 14 '18 at 14:29
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You have two different よう here:

  1. The verb suffix よう, added to the continuative stem of the verb 静める, "quieten" or "calm" [transitive verb] making the tentative form (also called the volitional form) 静めよう. The tentative form + とする means "be about to do", "be on the point of doing", "make as if to do", "try to do".
    気を静めようとした means "tried to calm himself" (action begun and completed in the past). 気を静めようとしている is a continuative or progressive form, referring to an action begun but not yet completed, i.e. continuing, at the time being spoken of. Within a sentence, this form is uncommitted as to tense, and the corresponding verb in an English translation will match its tense to that of the sentence's main verb. Here that doesn't matter, because the English translation in this case will also be uncommitted as to tense. のか makes a question, so 気を静めようとしているのか standing alone would mean "is [Suzuki] trying to calm his feelings?" Embedded within a larger sentence the sense is "as though he were trying to calm his feelings". So the whole sentence, inserting 静めようとしている, means "Thereupon Suzuki closed his eyes and took a deep breath, as though trying to calm himself/soothe his spirit."

  2. ようにする following the dictionary form of a verb means "act in such a way as to do [whatever the verb means]" or more idiomatically "make it a practice to do", "make a point of doing". E.g. 毎日5キロ歩くようにしている, "I make a point of walking 5 kilometres a day".

  • @Chocolate - Thanks for editing. Regards. – Graham Healey Jul 7 '17 at 14:43

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