Try as I might/may

HunJohn

Member
Hungarian
Hello Everyone!

Could somebody please tell me if there is any difference in use between 'try as I might' and 'try as I may'? Judging from the examples I've read so far, my impression is that 'try as I might' is used with the past tense while 'try as I may' is used when we are talking about something happening in the present. Here are two sentences:

1. Try as I might, I couldn't open the bottle.
2. Try as I may, I can't get my sister to clean up after herself.


Thank you very much in advance!
 
  • Baltic Sea

    Banned
    Polish
    try as I may and try as I might Cliché a phrase that introduces an expression of regret or failure. Bill: Try as I may, I cannot get this thing put together right. Andy: Did you read the instructions? Rachel: Wow! This place is a mess! Mother: Try as I might, I can't get Andrew to clean up after himself.
    The source: http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/try+as+I+might
     

    JustKate

    Senior Member
    May and might are hard because while they can have some relation to tense, they don't always. In your examples, I'd say that while may can only be used in the present and future tenses, might can be - and often is - used in past, present and future.
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    I believe you are correct about the use of "try as I may": that is used for present or on-going situations.

    We do use "might" for the past situations.
    Try as I might, I was never able to teach my dog to behave.

    However, we also use "try as I might" for present situations. That is, we can say either:
    Try as I may, I can't get my sister to clean up after herself.
    Or
    Try as I might, I can't get my sister to clean up after herself.
    I believe that we even prefer 'might' over 'may' in these situations.

    (I am speaking of my personal experience with American English. The answer may be different for a speaker of British English.)
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    This BrE-speaker agrees with Cagey:
    ~ "try as I might" is the all-purpose usage, and the only possible option when we are talking about past time.
    ~ I'm pretty sure that I wouldn't use "try as I may", myself.
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    Might is used as both past tense and conditional of may. As a conditional might can be used with an explicit condition such as:

    I might try duct tape if I wanted to fix it.
    To fix it, you might try duct tape.

    But it can also be used as an open-ended conditional:

    You might try duct tape.

    This makes the meaning less absolute than present tense may. The same works other verbs that have a past tense but no infinitive, most notably could: You could try duct tape.

    As a conditional, it works fine with present tense:

    I might try duct tape, but I know I can't fix it.
    Try as I might, I can't fix it.
     

    AKielts

    Member
    Farsi
    Hi,
    I'm not sure whether I'm allowed to add my question at the end of this thread but my question is relevant. I hope you guys will be able to help me.
    I just came across the following examples in Destination C1 & C2 (MacMillan publication):

    1) Try as he might, he couldn't put up with the pain.
    2) However hard he (might have) tried, he couldn't put up with the pain.
    3) Much as he tried, he couldn't put up with the pain.

    I wonder if these phrases or clauses have idiomatic forms and are used only with the verb "try". If not, could you please give me some example of these structure with other verbs?
    I would also appreciate it if you could recommend some other grammar books that offer more detailed explanation on these structures.

    Thanks in advance.
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    Hi,
    I'm not sure whether I'm allowed to add my question at the end of this thread but my question is relevant. I hope you guys will be able to help me.
    I just came across the following examples in Destination C1 & C2 (MacMillan publication):

    1) Try as he might, he couldn't put up with the pain.
    2) However hard he (might have) tried, he couldn't put up with the pain.
    3) Much as he tried, he couldn't put up with the pain.

    I wonder if these phrases or clauses have idiomatic forms and are used only with the verb "try". If not, could you please give me some example of these structure with other verbs?
    I would also appreciate it if you could recommend some other grammar books that offer more detailed explanation on these structures.

    Thanks in advance.
    The short answer is no, these forms are not limited to the verb try:

    Study as he might, he could not understand the theory.
    However hard he pushed / might push / might have pushed, he could not get the door open.
    Much as he wanted to, he could not understand the theory.

    These structures are nuanced alternatives to saying "no matter ..." or "regardless of ...".
     

    taraa

    Senior Member
    Persian
    Might is used as both past tense and conditional of may. As a conditional might can be used with an explicit condition such as:

    I might try duct tape if I wanted to fix it.
    To fix it, you might try duct tape.


    But it can also be used as an open-ended conditional:

    You might try duct tape.

    This makes the meaning less absolute than present tense may. The same works other verbs that have a past tense but no infinitive, most notably could: You could try duct tape.

    As a conditional, it works fine with present tense:

    I might try duct tape, but I know I can't fix it.
    Try as I might, I can't fix it.
    When "might" used in present time, is it always conditional?
     

    taraa

    Senior Member
    Persian
    "Might" is never present tense. It is usually what we call conditional mode, but sometimes it is just the past tense of "may".
    Thanks a lot!
    I meant when "might" refers to future not past, is it always conditional?
    Can you please explain why is "might" better than "may" in the sentences below that I saw in another thread?
    b. The pool is crowded. If you swim carelessly you may kick somebody.
    c. The pool is crowded. If you swim carelessly you might kick somebody.
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    Thanks a lot!
    I meant when "might" refers to future not past, is it always conditional?
    Can you please explain why is "might" better than "may" in the sentences below that I saw in another thread?
    b. The pool is crowded. If you swim carelessly you may kick somebody.
    c. The pool is crowded. If you swim carelessly you might kick somebody.
    "May" has a certain ambiguity, when unstressed, that almost disappears in the conditional.

    In speech it is easy to stress "may", and then there is no problem. But indicating that stress in writing is awkward:

    The pool is crowded. If you swim carelessly, you may kick somebody.

    I don't have any problem with this version:

    The pool is crowded. If people swim carelessly, someone may get kicked.
     
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