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    #1

    "Have a try" in China

    I have a question concerning the best way to tackle a common expression in China. The expression is "Have a try," which I hear constantly in the area of China that I teach in. "Have a try" is completely wrong in my part of the USA, but I've come to find out that it's actually a common expression in New Zealand and Australia.


    After visiting a few websites, including an old forum post (https://www.usingenglish.com/forum/t...238-Have-a-try) from this site, I think I found out the best way to explain this phrase.


    The following is what I'm planning on teaching my students and I'm looking for input from people in NZ and AUS. Anyone, however, is welcome to give their expert opinion!


    =================================================
    "Have a try" is commonly used with food. This means:


    Have a try of my spaghetti. - is right.


    Do you want to have a try going to West Lake? - is wrong


    Playing this game is fun, you can have a try. - is wrong


    Do you want to have a try of my dumplings? - is right


    "Have a try" is usually only said by the "owner."


    For example, I “own” this water bottle.
    I can say, “You look thirsty, have a try.”


    You can’t say “I’m thirsty, can I have a try of your water?”


    “Have a try” is common only in Australia and New Zealand. This means you may sound awkward to an American, British, or Canadian speaker.


    This is because, to these three speakers, "try" is verb, not a noun.
    Instead of “have a try,” you can just say “try it.” As in:
    This food is fantastic! You should try it.
    I have never had this before. I guess I’ll try it.


    Other examples include:
    Try it out
    Try it on (For clothes)
    Try this
    Try my…
    Try the…
    Give it a shot.


    =================================================




    What do you guys think? I think it's better than what I did my first year, which was to tell all my students that the phrase was completely wrong.

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    #2

    Re: "Have a try" in China

    Quote Originally Posted by FireInChina View Post
    “Have a try” is common only in Australia and New Zealand. This means you may sound awkward to an American, British, or Canadian speaker.
    It does sound awkward to me. (British English speaker)

    Quote Originally Posted by FireInChina View Post
    What do you guys think? I think it's better than what I did my first year, which was to tell all my students that the phrase was completely wrong.
    Many of us have done that with something that sounds wrong in our variant.

  1. Raymott's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: "Have a try" in China

    I don't know why you've chosen trying food or drinks as the only legitimate use, though it could be used this way. We'd be more likely to say, "Do you want to try my spaghetti?"
    In the context of this forum, if someone asks a simple question, I might say "Why don't you have a try first?" And I didn't know this would sound strange to others. So "have a try" is more often used to mean trying something physical.
    Person A: "I can't start my car."; Person B: "Let me have a try."
    "Have a try" then refers to a literal attempt to do something, not trying food, which isn't an attempt at all, usually.

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    #4

    Re: "Have a try" in China

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    I don't know why you've chosen trying food or drinks as the only legitimate use, though it could be used this way. We'd be more likely to say, "Do you want to try my spaghetti?"
    In the context of this forum, if someone asks a simple question, I might say "Why don't you have a try first?" And I didn't know this would sound strange to others. So "have a try" is more often used to mean trying something physical.
    Person A: "I can't start my car."; Person B: "Let me have a try."
    "Have a try" then refers to a literal attempt to do something, not trying food, which isn't an attempt at all, usually.

    I can't remember where, but on a different website than this one a NZ guy explained it to me that way. Just like "Tdol" above, "have a try" sounded really weird to me, so I asked for common usages and he informed me of the food deal. As for your example, I would simply say "let me try," when attempting to start another person's car. That's why the phrase confuses me. This confusion is pretty much across the board for all the foreign teachers I know in China (although, they are all from either Britain or America).

    I appreciate the "physical" answer. I will rewrite my lesson.

  2. Barb_D's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: "Have a try" in China

    American here. "Have a try" to means to make an attempt.

    Playing some sort of skill game or doing some activity is a natural time to ask someone else if they want to "have a try."

    "Why don't you give it a try first" also is quite fine.

    The suggestions to have a sip of water or try my food would not work with this phrase.
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

  3. Raymott's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: "Have a try" in China

    Quote Originally Posted by FireInChina View Post
    As for your example, I would simply say "let me try," when attempting to start another person's car.
    And if I thought there was someting wrong with the engine, I might say, "Let me have a look at the engine", whereas I guess you'd say, "Let me look at the engine", which wouldn't confuse me in the least. Nor would "Let me cast an eye over the engine" or a whole range of other expressions. But if you are telling your students that it's wrong, and they know it's not wrong, I know the confusion that that can cause. Yes, be careful to stress that "have a try" usually means "make an attempt" not "have a taste" - though it's not absolutely wrong for the latter.

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