Grammar Info

N3 Lesson 7: 17/21

う・よう + とする

Try to, Attempt to, To be about to

Verb[Volitional]としても(even if someone attempts to) can be contracted to Verb[Volitional] + たって/ったって。

Structure

Verb[おう] + とする

Details

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About Verb[volitional]とする

When combined with the auxiliary verb う (or よう), とする carries the meaning of 'to try to do (A)', or 'to be about to do (A)'. The case marking particle と in this expression highlights a 'result'.
To use おうとする, modify the (A) verb into its う or よう receiving form, and then add とする.
  • この()はなんでも()ようとするから、お菓子(かし)(かく)してね。
    This one will try to eat anything, so please hide any snacks.
  • 先生(せんせい)(はな)ている(あいだ)(かえ)ろうとする先生(せんせい)(おこ)られる。
    If you try to go home while the teacher is talking, he will yell at you.
As う and よう mark volition (the express intent to do something), とする adds the nuance that the express intent has been decided, and all that remains is to 'do' the action. This translates quite closely to 'to endeavor to do' in English, where the past form 'endeavored to do' will suggest that the attempt was unsuccessful.
  • 今年(ことし)毎日(まいにち)日本語(にほんご)勉強(べんきょう)ようとしたが時間(じかん)なくて出来(でき)なかった
    I tried to study Japanese everyday this year, but I couldn't because I didn't have time.
  • クラスメイトスズキさん(はな)()ようとしたけど緊張(きんちょう)()ぎて(はな)なかった
    I tried to talk to my classmate, Suzuki-san, but I got so nervous that I couldn't.
Caution
ようとする is also regularly used to indicate when one action interrupts another. In these cases, the nuance is not quite 'to have endeavored', but more '(A) was already underway, when (B)'. Again, it will just show that the (A) action was decided upon 100%, when something caused an unexpected change.
  • (いえ)()ようとしたら、(きゅう)(あめ)()(はじ)めた。
    It suddenly started to rain when I was about to leave the house.
  • 部屋(へや)(くら)かったから電気(でんき)()ようとしたら(つま)電気(でんき)()けるな()われた。
    As I tried to turn on the lights in my room because it was dark, my wife told me not to.

Examples

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  • ()て!子犬(こいぬ)がしっぽを(つか)まえようとしているとてもかわいい

    Look! The puppy is trying to catch its tail! It's so cute!

    • 犯人(はんにん)は、()ようとした(とき)に、警察(けいさつ)(つか)まえられた。

      Just as the culprit tried to escape, he was caught by police.

      • (うつ)」の()(じゅん)何回(なんかい)(おぼ)ようとしても(おぼ)えられない。

        No matter how many times I try to remember the stroke order of '鬱' I cannot remember it.

        覚えようとしても can be contracted to 覚えようったって or 覚えようたって without a change in meaning.

        • 一度(いちど)に2つのことをしようとするな。

          Don't try to do two things at once.

          • ひよこは(おや)のように()ぼうとしても、できなかった。

            Even though the chick attempted to fly like its parents, it couldn't.

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            Verb[volitional]とする – Grammar Discussion

            Most Recent Replies (12 in total)

            • bthnrs

              bthnrs

              What’s the real difference between this point and ようにする (n4, lesson 7)?

            • EbonyMidget

              EbonyMidget

              The general answer from Stackexchange and HiNative seems to be that ようにする follows the second definition on Bunpro “to make sure that”, whereas ようとする is something you’re going to try to do. Perhaps it’d help to think about the N5 point にする to remember the difference.

            • FredKore

              FredKore

              As I understand it, ようにする is usually attached to habits or larger end goals that you are trying to achieve. ようとする is attached to some effort that you are struggling to do.

              ジムに行くようにする。I’m trying to go to the gym. (I’m trying to make it a regular habit, but I just started.)
              ジムに行こうとする。I’m trying to go to the gym. (…right now, as we speak, but the wind and rain and traffic is making it impossible!)

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