Spanish Verbs for 'To Try'

Word choice depends on the meaning you intend

magic trick
Voy a probar un nuevo truco de magia. (I'm going to try a new magic trick.).

Jin/Creative Commons.

"To try" is one of those English verbs that will steer you down the wrong path if you try to translate it with just one Spanish verb. This lesson looks at the most common ways of expressing the idea of "trying" and related phrases such as "to try to" or "to try out."

Fast Facts

  • Tratar de and intentar are are the most common ways of translating "try" when it means to attempt something.
  • Esforzarse and phrases using esfuerzo can also be used to emphasize the effort given.
  • When "try" refers to a testing or testing out, the preferred translation is usually probar.

Trying as Attempting

When "try" means "attempt," it can usually be translated as tratar de or intentar followed by an infinitive. The two are roughly synonymous, although tratar de is more common. Note that intentar is a false friend to the English verb "to intend" — intentar involves an actual attempt, not a mere intent as the English verb does.

  • Tratamos de hacer lo mejor para conseguir el objetivo. (We are trying to do what is best in order to reach the objective.)
  • Trataron de resucitar al cantante durante más de una hora en el hospital. (They tried to resuscitate the singer for more than an hour in the hospital.)
  • Trataremos de resolver sus problemas. (We will try to resolve your problems.)
  • Vamos a tratar de ganar el campeonato. (We are going to try to win the championship.)
  • Intentamos resolver las dudas que puedan surgir. (We are trying to resolve the doubts that may arise.)
  • Intentar es major que esperar. (Trying is better than waiting.)
  • Me intentaron hacer un fraude. (They tried to commit a fraud against me.)
  • Intento comprender la verdad. (I am trying to understand the truth.)

Trying as Testing

When "to try" means "to test," as the phrase "to try out" often does, you can often use the verb probar:

  • Probamos algo nuevo. (We're trying something new.)
  • Los estudiantes probaron comidas de los diferentes países. (The students tried meals of different countries.)
  • Los terroristas probaban gases venenosos experimentando con perros. (The terrorists tried out poisonous gases by experimenting with dogs.)
  • Me probé la camisa y vi que estaba hecha exactamente a mi medida. (I tried on the shirt and saw that it was made exactly to my size.)
  • Desde que probé su consejo, mi vida cambió para siempre. (Ever since I tried her advice, my life has been forever changed.)
  • Pues, pruébalo y verás. (Here, try it out and you'll see.)
  • Voy a probar un nuevo truco de magia. (I'm going to try a new magic trick.)
  • Probé suerte de nuevo y abrí mi propio negocio. (I tried my luck again and opened my own business.)

Trying as an Effort

To "try" in the sense of "put forth an effort" can often be translated as esforzarse or a phrase such as hacer un esfuerzo por. Although intentar and tratar de can also indicate an effort, they put less emphasis on it than do esforzarse and phrases using esfuerzo.

  • Sé que puedes esforzarte más. (I know you can try harder.)
  • Me esfuerzo con toda intensidad por ser sincero. (I'm trying as hard as I can to be honest.)
  • Pero yo me esfuerzo todo lo que puedo. (I'm trying to do everything I can.)
  • Hago un esfuerzo por apartar de mi mente lo ocurrido y concentrarme en mi trabajo. (I'm trying to get my mind off of what happened and concentrate on my work.)
  • Volvió al sillón e hizo un esfuerzo por relajarse. (She returned to the rocking chair and tried to relax.)
  • Es necesario hacer un esfuerzo. (It is necessary to try.)

Legal Use of 'Try'

"To try" in the sense of "to put on trial" can be expressed by procesar or juzgar:

  • El juez procesó ayer a ocho personas por el robo de armas de guerra. The judge yesterday tried eight people for the theft of military weapons.
  • Juzgaron a los activistas de Greenpeace en España. The Greenpeace activists were tried in Spain.

'Try' as a Noun

Try as a noun can often be translated well using intento:

  • Haz de nuevo el intento. Give it another try.
  • ¡Al menos hicieron su mejor intento! At least they gave it their best try!
  • Al menos resulta un intento divertido. (At least it was a fun try.)