aim at / aim to

olefebvr

New Member
French
#1
Hello,
I'd like to know the difference of meaning between these two forms.
I aim at doing / I aim to do.

This is unclear to me if they are equivalent or if aim at is a bit aggressive, or if I miss something else...

Thanks in advance,
Olivier
 
  • elroy

    Imperfect Mod
    US English/Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    #2
    Welcome to the forums, Olivier.

    Tough question - let me try:

    I aim at doing something. = I strive to do something.

    By using illustrations in class, I aim at enhancing my theoretical lectures with visual aids.

    I aim to do something. = I attempt/plan to do something.

    This year, I aim to get back in touch with all of my high school friends.

    Hm...I'm not sure that's a good explanation. Perhaps someone else can explain the difference better - if there is one at all. :)
     

    Isotta

    Senior Member
    English, Hodgepodge
    #4
    elroy said:
    Welcome to the forums, Olivier.

    Tough question - let me try:

    I aim at doing something. = I strive to do something.

    By using illustrations in class, I aim at enhancing my theoretical lectures with visual aids.

    I aim to do something. = I attempt/plan to do something.

    This year, I aim to get back in touch with all of my high school friends.
    Your example of the figurative "aim at" sounds bizarre to me. I think it's always "aim to" plus the infinitive. I would only say "aim at" in relation to a target:

    Billy gawt a good whoopin' when he aimed his BB gun at little Brenda.
    I've always loved Geraldine, and I aim to marry her.

    Z.
     
    English, USA
    #5
    Round these parts, aim to and aim at meaning intend to are colloquial, often heard, but rarely written. These expressions are sometimes used by speakers who wish to be amusing or deliberately informal; for others, it is a part of their normal speech.
     
    John-Paul Miller, NYC
    #6
    elroy said:
    By using illustrations in class, I aim at enhancing my theoretical lectures with visual aids.
    For some reason I can't quite explain, I don't like that construct.

    I personally, would say it as:

    By using illustrations in class, I aim to enhance my theoretical lectures with visual aids.

    Perhaps its the intend synonym sticking in my head, perhaps not. We aim at a target, and we intend or aim "to do" something. And a gerund isn't really a target...or is it??

    But I would also probably automatically "correct" it if I were editing someone else's work. Probably leading to a usage argument.

    Hmm.
     

    olefebvr

    New Member
    French
    #7
    Hello,
    I thought it was all clear with the first answer but it is getting more and more complicated indeed.

    The things that "aims" in my context is a project, a research, a work, a study, etc. For instance:
    - this project aims at applying the new results to this application field...
    - this research field aims to go beyond usual devices...

    With the meaning of "intend", "strive", "attempt".
    Which form would you suggest ?
    Thank you for your help,
    Olivier
     

    judkinsc

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    #8
    olefebvr said:
    Hello,
    I thought it was all clear with the first answer but it is getting more and more complicated indeed.

    The things that "aims" in my context is a project, a research, a work, a study, etc. For instance:
    - this project aims at applying the new results to this application field...
    - this research field aims to go beyond usual devices...

    With the meaning of "intend", "strive", "attempt".
    Which form would you suggest ?
    Thank you for your help,
    Olivier
    I suggest using "aim" (at/to) when there is a, hopefully literal, "target" you wish to hit.

    I would not use "at" followed by a gerund (applying).
    I would use "at" followed by an article and a noun. "We are aiming at the target." A very literal target...while you are holding a bow for archery or a rifle.

    And to use "aim to" for your other uses, with an infinitive.
     
    John-Paul Miller, NYC
    #9
    As noted above, I would suggest the following usage:

    - this project aims to apply the new results to this application field...
    - this research field aims to go beyond usual devices...

    Others may have more to offer, but my personal rule is... when in doubt (and not producing literature) go with the proven winner.
     
    English, USA
    #10
    intend to = set out to do, have as a goal
    strive = to work to accomplish
    attempt = to try to accomplish
    proposes = suggests as its goal

    I kinda like strives to apply the new results
    and field proposes to go beyond the usual
     

    whatonearth

    Senior Member
    UK, English
    #11
    For me, "aim to" (hope to/try to etc) sounds fine. However, I can't say I've ever heard "aim at" used in any context...the examples given above sound awkward to me...
     

    elroy

    Imperfect Mod
    US English/Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    #12
    Hm...I'm beginning to think "aim at doing" and "aim to do" mean the same thing, and that the former is simply indicative of a sloppier style. I know for a fact that I've heard/seen/read it used - so it's not completely unthinkable - but I guess it's just not good style. I for one would most likely go with "aim to do." Just some thoughts.
     

    katinks

    New Member
    English - England
    #13
    Welcome to the forums, Olivier.

    Tough question - let me try:

    I aim at doing something. = I strive to do something.

    By using illustrations in class, I aim at enhancing my theoretical lectures with visual aids.

    I aim to do something. = I attempt/plan to do something.

    This year, I aim to get back in touch with all of my high school friends.

    Hm...I'm not sure that's a good explanation. Perhaps someone else can explain the difference better - if there is one at all. :)
    Hello everyone, I hope I'm doing this right as this is the first time I have written here, but I've been using these forums for a few months now and have found some extremely useful stuff, thank you everyone. I just wanted to add to this discussion (only 5 years late!) that I agree with Elroy's initial analysis, and so does the free dictionary.

    Keep up the good work everyone, it is all very enlightening!
     

    Alejo Xu

    New Member
    Mandarín (Chino tradicional) - Taiwán
    #14
    Hi everyone,

    I know this is an old thread already but I decide to add one more thing lest anyone find this useful.

    Cambridge dictionary suggests the same usage as elroy did; dictionary(dot)com, however, suggests both aim at and aim to can mean "to strife".
     

    e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    #15
    Welcome to the English forum, Alejo Xu!

    I would never use aim at -ing. If this construction is used, it is overwhelmingly less common than aim to (e.g. on COCA, the US corpus).

    However, I would use it in the passive: This policy is aimed at eliminating poverty.
     
    Last edited:

    El_Andy

    New Member
    French
    #18
    Hi,
    I remember clearly back in the day at school when learning english that the correct grammatical rule was "to aim at something". My guess would be that with time this grammatical rule has been taken over by a wrong use of grammar (aim to). This is unfortunately too common, I noticed ,with English grammar rules...
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    #19
    the correct grammatical rule was "to aim at something"
    A rather inadequate grammatical rule.

    The form "to aim to {infinitive}" has been around for a few hundred years and is perfectly correct English.

    1745 E. Haywood Female Spectator II. 313 But to return to that Subject, which..both the above-cited Letters, in my Judgment, aim to prove.

    2011 Hull Daily Mail (Nexis) 11 July 4 Like all NHS organisations, our capital budget has been reduced significantly as we aim to make substantial savings over the next five years.
     
    Arabic
    #21
    ......"No need for confusion. Use "aim to" when you refer to yourself, and "aim at" when you refer to a third party. e.g We "aimed to" ..... or This paper "aimed at .
    Here, "This paper" is the third party!!
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    #22
    I'm afraid that doesn't work.
    "We aimed to win the war."
    "We aimed at winning the war."
    "This paper aims to show that the Moon is made of cheese."
    "This paper aims at showing that the Moon is made of cheese.":thumbsdown:

    I don't think your understanding of "third party" matches it's normal meaning, but that would be a topic for another thread.
     
    India - Hindi
    #24
    I found this in the OALD :
    aim
    1. to try or plan to achieve something.
    ...
    -- at doing sth. They're aiming at training everybody by the end of the year.


    Here "aim at" is followed by a gerund and the sentence is in the active voice. How foes the OALD finds it fine? :confused::rolleyes:
    Thanks a lot.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    #25
    A scientific paper would normally start with a stated aim:

    Aim
    To demonstrate that the Moon is made of cheese.

    That seems to make "This paper aims at showing that the Moon is made of cheese" unnatural.

    I don't think there are any hard-and-fast rules. If we use the active form we are more likely to use the infinitive and if we use the passive form we use the gerund (always?). Examples from earlier in the thread:

    I aim to enhance my theoretical lectures with visual aids. :thumbsup:
    This policy is aimed at eliminating poverty. :thumbsup:
    This policy is aimed to eliminate poverty. :cross:

    Oddly, I can accept "We aimed at winning the war" in the past tense, but I find the present tense "We aim at winning the war" less acceptable.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    #27
    I would use "to train" in that example, but that's just my preference. They're aiming to train everybody by the end of the year. However, I think that the continuous tense makes "at training" much more idiomatic than with the simple present.
    They're aiming at training everybody by the end of the year.
    They aim at training everybody by the end of the year. :eek:
    (my personal reaction)
    Perhaps it's the alliteration that makes it work - "aiming" ... "training".
     

    marcap6

    New Member
    spanish Colombia
    #31
    :confused: It doesn't offer an explanation, it provides example sentences showing the range of prepositions which can be used with "aim".
    Well, I thought the whole point of this thread was to clear up whether you could use aim with at or to and based on these examples it is clear to me that you can use them both. Sometimes it is not necessary a deep explanation to understand the practical usage of a preposition.
     

    Warped

    Senior Member
    Finnish, Swedish
    #32
    I was taught that "aim to do something" was wrong (if that was the word the teacher used), whereas "aim at doing something" was correct. "His aim is to do something" works with the infinitive form.
     

    marcap6

    New Member
    spanish Colombia
    #34
    "Arguments over grammar and style are often as fierce as those over IBM versus Mac, and as fruitless as Coke versus Pepsi and boxers versus briefs" -
    If you read this thread you will see clear statements that you cannot always use "aim to" and "aim at" interchangeably. For example see posts #4, 15 and 17.
    well, I never said interchangeably I just said that both can be used. The examples are just for people to understand better when to use "to" or "at". If an explanation is needed then read post #2. I think the difference is pretty clear there.

    "Arguments over grammar and style are often as fierce as those over IBM versus Mac, and as fruitless as Coke versus Pepsi and boxers versus briefs"

    Jack Lynch
     

    sunyaer

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    #36
    I would use "to train" in that example, but that's just my preference. They're aiming to train everybody by the end of the year. However, I think that the continuous tense makes "at training" much more idiomatic than with the simple present.
    ...
    Does the continuous tense makes "to train" work in They're aiming to train everybody by the end of the year?
     
    English - GB
    #38
    I think there are huge differences in dialect, hence all the seemingly contradictory comments.

    Andygc - you said that you're happy with the second example below. I am not. I have been persuaded it is correct in some American English but it sounds wrong to my English English ear. I prefer the weapon reading of aim at.
    >I aim to enhance my theoretical lectures with visual aids. :thumbsup:
    >This policy is aimed at eliminating poverty. :thumbsup:
    >This policy is aimed to eliminate poverty. :cross:

    Secondly, it is worth pointing out that you have introduced a further complication - your second and third examples are passive. Whilst this works for aim at, it doesn't work for aim to. Andygc - Your third example should in fact be
    This policy aims to eliminate poverty.

    There is no reason to make it passive, and it does not work. Does it sound better now?
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    #39
    First, I didn't introduce any complications.
    Examples from earlier in the thread:

    I aim to enhance my theoretical lectures with visual aids. :thumbsup:
    This policy is aimed at eliminating poverty. :thumbsup:
    This policy is aimed to eliminate poverty. :cross:
    By using illustrations in class, I aim to enhance my theoretical lectures with visual aids.
    However, I would use it in the passive: This policy is aimed at eliminating poverty.
    Does this work?

    "This policy is aimed to eliminate poverty."
    You said
    Your third example should in fact be
    This policy aims to eliminate poverty.

    There is no reason to make it passive, and it does not work. Does it sound better now?
    "Should be"? Apart from it not being my example, why "should"? "Does not work"? There is nothing wrong with using the passive, and using the passive in the way e2efour did in his example is perfectly normal in British English - which both he and I speak.
    second and third examples are passive. Whilst this works for aim at, it doesn't work for aim to
    Who claimed that it did? Not I, as should be perfectly clear from my use of :cross:.
     
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