Try to… and try ~ing
Try to do = attempt to do, make an effort to do:
* I was very tired. I tried to keep my eyes open but I couldn’t.
* Please try to be quiet when you come home. Everyone will be asleep.
Try also means ‘do something as an experiment or test’. For example:
* These cakes are delicious. You must try one. (= you must have one to see if you like it)
* We couldn’t find anywhere to stay. We tried every hotel in the town but they were
All full. (= we went to every hotel to see if they had a room)
If try (with this meaning) is followed by a verb, we say try ~ing:
* A: The photocopier doesn’t seem to be working.
B: Try pressing the green button. (= press the green button – perhaps this will help to solve the problem)
* I tried to move the table but it was too heavy. (so I couldn’t move it)
* I didn’t like the way the furniture was arranged, so I tried moving the table to the other side of the room. But it still didn’t look right, so I moved it back again.
Need to… and need ~ing
I need to do something = it is necessary for me to do it:
* I need to take more exercise.
* He needs to work harder if he wants to make progress.
* I don’t need to come to the meeting, do I?
Something needs doing = something needs to be done:
* The batteries in the radio need changing. (= they need to be changed)
* Do you think my jacket needs cleaning? (= … needs to be cleaned)
* It’s a difficult problem. It needs thinking about very carefully. (= it needs to be thought about)
Help and can’t help
You can say ‘help to do’ or ‘help do’ (infinitive with or without to):
* Everybody helped to clean up after the party. or Everybody helped clean up…
* Can you help me to move this table? or Can you help me move…
There is also an expression ‘can’t/couldn’t help doing something’. ‘I can’t help doing something’ = I can’t stop myself from doing it:
* I don’t like him but he has a lot of problems. I can’t help feeling sorry for him.
* She tried to be serious but she couldn’t help laughing. (= she couldn’t stop herself from laughing)
* I’m sorry I’m so nervous. I can’t help it. (= I can’t help being nervous)