To try: "intentar", "tratar" or "probar"?
The question we want to answer is: What verb do I use for "to try"?
Well, as often in these cases, it depends! In this case, it's a actually a pretty big difference in meaning:
Meaning: To try to do something
If the meaning is "to try to ..." you would use intentar and after you would use an infinitive, for the action someone "tries to do".
Intento ser una buena persona - I try to be a good person
¿Vas a intentar contactar con ella? - Are you going to try to contact her?
Hemos intentado ahorrar muchas veces - We have tried to save (money) many times.
Meaning: To try to do something
Same as intentar, with an infinitive after.
It's important to add the de, because tratar by itself means "to treat" or "to address a topic or problem".
Let's see the same examples with tratar de then:
Trato de ser una buena persona - I try to be a good person
¿Vas a tratar de contactar con ella? - Are you going to try to contact her?
Hemos tratado de ahorrar muchas veces - We have tried to save (money) many times.
So, what's the difference then?
Tratar de is just used a bit less in conversation, a bit less common.
Meanings: To taste, try on, try for the first time, prove, test.
To taste food / try food for the first time
¿Quieres probar esta tarta? - Do you want to taste this cake?
Probé el boniato y no me gustó - I tried sweet potato and I didn't like it.
To try clothes on
This is a reflexive verb: probarse (because you try something on yourself)
- Quiero probarme la chaqueta para ver si queda bien - I want to try on the jacket to see if it looks good.
To try to do something for the first time
This, like intentar, needs another verb in infinitive: the thing someone tries to do for the first time. We also add the preposition "a" in between the two verbs.
¿Has probado a reiniciar el ordenador - Have you tried restarting the computer?
Mañana voy a probar a hacer un postre sin azucar - Tomorrow I'm going to try (for the first time) to make a dessert without sugar.
You can also try to do something "with something", kind of like trying an ingredient for the first time:
Voy a probar con un poco de miel - I'm going to try (to do the dessert, for example) with a bit of honey.
Van a probar a arreglarlo con otra herramienta - They're going to try (for the first time) to fix it with another tool.
To test /prove
Sometimes it can be translated only with "to test"
- ¿Has probado el sonido? - Have you tested the sound?
Others with both, to test and to prove
- Vamos a probar que el sistema funciona - we're going to test/prove that the system works
And others just with "to prove that... "
- El experimento probó que la luz se comporta de dos maneras diferentes - The experiment proved that the light behaves in two different ways.
Extra one! Probar suerte is an expression that means "to try one's luck".
- No sé si vamos a tener entrada va a ir mucha gente, pero probaremos suerte - I don't know if we're going to have tickets, many people are going to go, but we'll try our luck.
And that's all! Remember that intentar is only used for "to try to do something", with an infinitive after it, and probar is for all all the rest!
¡Hasta pronto! :)