Woman trying clothes

Intentar, Tratar, or Probar? Master the Verb “To Try” in Spanish

Leonor Garcia Published on December 8, 2023

Ever find yourself tangled in the mix of Spanish verbs like probar, tratar, and intentar because they all seem to translate as “to try” in English? I get it – it’s like trying to pick the right ice cream flavor in a sea of options! But don’t worry because I’ll help you learn the differences between these tricky verbs.

In this article, we’re going to break down the unique uses of probar, tratar, and intentar. Once we’re done, you’ll know the uses and meanings of these words. So, hang tight and get ready for a friendly journey into the world of trying things out in Spanish!

Woman trying on clothes

The Verb Intentar: Usage and Examples

Intentar is used when someone is making an effort or attempting something with a clear goal in mind. It refers to the action of trying something. For example, if someone says, “Voy a intentar resolver el problema” (I am going to try to solve the problem), it means they are purposefully working towards a specific outcome.

Intentar steps into the arena when you want to express a deliberate effort or attempt with a clear goal in mind but want to avoid saying that you’ll definitely make it. There’s a possibility that your efforts will be in vain. To form this construction, use intentar followed by the infinitive conjugation of the verb. It can also be used interchangeably with tratar de in some contexts. Explore the intentional side of trying with a variety of examples:

Intentaré llamarla mañana. / I will try to call her tomorrow. – Intentar conveys a determined effort to reach out, emphasizing a specific action.

– Están intentando encontrar una solución. / They are trying to find a solution. – Here, intentar implies an ongoing effort to seek a solution, showcasing the verb’s applicability in varied scenarios.

– Ella intenta ser más creativa. / She tries to be more creative. – This example emphasizes the endeavor to be intentionally creative.

Intentamos resolver el misterio juntos. / We try to solve the mystery together. – The use of intentamos highlights a collaborative effort to solve a mystery.

– Él intenta aprender a bailar salsa. / He tries to to learn to dance salsa. – Using intenta, this sentence underscores the intentional attempt to learn salsa dancing.

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The Verb “Tratar de”: Usage and Examples

Tratar de has a broader meaning, including “to try,” but it can also mean “to deal with,” “to handle,” or “to treat.” When used to express trying, it often involves experimenting or giving something a shot without necessarily having a particular goal. For example, “Voy a tratar de aprender a tocar la guitarra” (I am going to try to learn to play the guitar) suggests a more open-ended attempt.

When using the Spanish verb tratar, it’soften coupled with the preposition “de.” To form this construction, use “tratar de” followed by the infinitive form of the verb. This combination signifies the purpose of doing something. Let’s take a look at some examples:

– Voy a tratar de aprender a tocar la guitarra. / I am going to try to learn to play the guitar. – Here, tratar de introduces an open-ended attempt to acquire a new skill, emphasizing the process rather than a specific goal.

– Él trata de probar nuevas comidas siempre que viaja. / He tries to try new foods whenever he travels. – In this context, tratar de implies exploring and experiencing new cuisines without a predefined objective.

– Ella trata de entender su punto de vista. / She tries to understand his point of view. – The use of tratar de here emphasizes the effort to comprehend someone else’s perspective.

Trato de ser más organizado en el trabajo. / I try to be more organized at work. – Here, trato de reflects an ongoing attempt to enhance organizational skills in the workplace.

– Él trata de aprender algo nuevo cada día. / He tries to learn something new every day. – Using trata de, this example emphasizes the daily commitment to acquiring new knowledge.

The Verb “Probar”: Usage and Examples

The Spanish verb probar often leans towards the idea of testing or tasting. It also translates to “to try” and is commonly used when referring to trying a new activity, checking the quality of something, trying a new dish, or trying on clothes. Understanding the subtle differences in its conjugations and uses can help you apply this verb appropriately in various situations. You can also use the command “Prueba” to tell others to try something specific. To convey the act of experimenting or checking the quality of something, use probar followed by the infinitive. Here are some example phrases:

– Voy a probar cocinar este plato nuevo. / I am going to try to cook this new dish. – Here, probar emphasizes the act of testing your cooking skills on a new culinary creation.

– Ellos probaron construir la nueva montaña rusa. / They tried to build the new roller coaster. – This use of probar involves experimenting and testing the construction of a new roller coaster ride.

– Me gusta probar escuchar diferentes tipos de música. / I like to try to listen to different types of music. – Using probar, this sentence highlights the enjoyment of experimenting with various music genres.

Probaré hacer ejercicio todas las mañanas. / I will try to exercise every morning. – Here, probaré signifies a commitment to testing the routine of morning exercise.

– Quiero probar aprender un nuevo instrumento. / I want to try to learn a new instrument. – The use of probar underscores the desire to experiment with the process of learning a new musical instrument.

– Voy a probarme estos pantalones. / I am going to try on these pants. – This example shows how to use probar when trying on clothes. Here, someone is testing how a pair of pants fits.

How to Practice the Difference Between Intentar, Tratar, and Probar

To get better at using probar, tratar, and intentar in Spanish, try a mix of activities. Write in a journal each day, making sentences that use these words to talk about your attempts or experiences. Take online courses for structured lessons on Spanish verbs and conjugation rules. Join language groups or find a Spanish-speaking language exchange partner to chat about your experiences using these verbs.

Use language apps because they have exercises to help you learn when you need to use probar, tratar, or intentar, and can increase your Spanish vocabulary quickly. Watch videos or listen to native speakers to see how they use these words naturally. Read Spanish books for a deeper understanding of grammar, and learn how to conjugate these verbs in the different tenses. Combine these resources with regular practice, and you’ll become more confident in using these verbs in Spanish.

To Try” in Spanish: Final Thoughts

Mastering the details of intentar, tratar, and probar in Spanish is a rewarding experience for Spanish learners. By understanding their distinct uses and practicing with real-life scenarios, you can confidently incorporate these verbs into your conversations. Whether you’re attempting a new skill, in a new situation, or trying to do something for someone, these verbs provide rich layers of expression.

Remember to practice regularly through journaling, role-playing, and engaging with multimedia resources. Supplement your learning with language apps, books, and online courses for a comprehensive approach. Embrace the learning process, make mistakes, and enjoy the journey of becoming proficient in using intentar, tratar, and probar in your Spanish language adventures. ¡Buena suerte! (Good luck!) 

Leonor Garcia

Leonor García is a Peruvian ESL teacher with a bachelor's degree from Universidad Nacional Federico Villarreal. She is fluent in Spanish and English and is currently learning Portuguese. She is passionate about cultural exchange and using languages to drive globalization. Through her writing and teaching, Leonor aims to help people achieve their language learning goals. Connect with Leonor on LinkedIn.

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