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Random Grammar Question

  1. Oct 8, 2011 #1
    I know this probably isn't the best place to ask this question but here goes anyways lol

    What's wrong with the next sentence/

    "What do you feel when you see a smoke detector? Do you ever feel like an astronaut? No? Well, the next time you see one, try to imagine that it's part of your spacecraft's caution and warning system."

    Apparently it's supposed to be "try imagining" instead of "try to imagine" but I don't see why the latter option would not work. Can anybody explain this to me?
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 8, 2011 #2
    They are both grammatically correct. However 'try imagining' sounds better to my ear. That is a matter of personal taste, not grammar.
  4. Oct 8, 2011 #3
    I think that there is a slight difference in meaning.
    'Try to imagine' suggests that you need to put some effort into imagining, 'try imagining' is more of a suggestion that you do something.
    The difference seems clearer in
    'Try to buy X next time you shop' suggests you might have difficulty in finding it.
    'Try buying X next time you shop' is more a suggestion to try something new.

    Maybe better
    'Try to eat the new garlic flavored ice cream' (you might have trouble getting it down)
    'Try eating the new garlic flavored ice cream' (because new experiences are exciting)
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2011
  5. Oct 8, 2011 #4
    Personally, I experience cognitive dissonance when asked about a sentence only to be presented with a paragraph instead.
  6. Oct 8, 2011 #5
    Is "No?" a sentence?
  7. Oct 8, 2011 #6
  8. Oct 8, 2011 #7


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    There's nothing wrong with "the next sentence". The rest of the paragraph, however, is idiotic.
    In line with your legitimate question, I respectfully disagree with Chronon. I was a professional writer for a couple of decades (got on the meds about 20 years ago and haven't been able to write anything since :cry:), so I still have a vague sense of structure vs impact. I agree with his evaluation of the situation, but to me the original is far more pleasant and compelling. "Try imagining" just doesn't do it. It's like trying to beat someone to death with a strand of wool.
    This is a situation where our recently retired Monique would be the final arbiter. Nothing involving words is beyond her expertise.
  9. Oct 8, 2011 #8
    I can see your point. I think "try to imagine" does have the suggestion that an effort will be required, but is used to emphasize that you're being asked to imagine an unusual situation, rather than actually needing a lot of effort to imagine it.
  10. Oct 8, 2011 #9


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    My thought exactly.
    The only analogy that comes to mind on short notice involves food. "Try imagining" is akin to a server saying "What would you like for a starter?" "Try to imagine" is more like the server giving you a list of starters and giving you your choice from that list.
    Okay, that wasn't a good analogy, but it's the best that I can think of right now.
    Anyhow, I have the impression that we shall get along famously.
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2011
  11. Oct 8, 2011 #10
    On the one hand there's:
    And on the other we have:
  12. Oct 8, 2011 #11
    i did this. now when i look at the smoke detector, i feel trapped. normally, i'd consider running outside with the smoke detector bleeping. but that feels like less of an option now.

    what is this from, a submarine manual?
  13. Oct 9, 2011 #12


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    It depends on what the auther wants to convey, as noted in the posts.

    there is a third option that makes the distinction more apparant.
    Try to imagine ....
    Try imagining .....
    Imagine .....

    Try to imagine ....
    maybe you know how to ski, or walk and talk at the same time, but do not know how to imagine so you try a new thing.

    Try imagining....
    Here you know how to imagine, and you will try a new image.

    Imagine ....
    As easy as said as done, as far as imagining goes.

    It is more clear using a different scenario.
    You are out in river with your buddy.
    Try to swim ..... You do not know how to swim but you will try.
    Try swimming .... You know how to swim, the current will propose a problem
    Swim .... Ok, I can swim in a river.
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