I'm trying to translate this sentence to Mandarin:

She's trying to recover the torn photo.

So I was trying to find a meaning of "to try" in Pinpin Dictionary, and I came up with three different words, “嘗試”,“試圖”,and “企圖”. All of them mean "to try".

  1. Are there any difference between these words?
  2. Based on the context, which one is more appropriate?

    1. 嘗試修復被碎照片。
    2. 試圖修復被碎照片。
    3. 企圖修復被碎照片。
  • use online dict e.g. bkrs: 尝试 #4400 try attempt try one's hand at 你尝试过写小说吗? Have you ever tried your hand at writing a novel? 企图 #2703 attempt; seek; try: 企图东山再起 attempt (try) to stage a comeback 企图行凶 offer violence 企图杀人灭口 seek to kill all so that there won't be any eye-witness left 囚犯们企图逃跑,但是失败了。 The prisoners attempted to escape but failed. 他们企图杀他。 They sought to kill him. 试图 #3902 try; attempt; intend 打算 试图表明存在一种真正的科学语言 敌人试图突围, 但没有得逞试图逃跑 make attempt at escaping 我在试图游到对岸去时差一点被淹死。他试图偷越国境。 attempted to cross border illegally. & much more, conclude 1,2 ok – user6065 Jan 28 at 8:18
  • That's interesting. Looks like "企圖" is more used in negative meanings, "trying to steal, trying to kill". That means "企圖" is not appropriate in this context. But I saw one of your sentence 他**试图**偷越国境, which has a rather negative meaning to me, is that OK? – Reynaldi Jan 28 at 9:13
  • @Reynaldi the difference between 试图 and 企图 is that 企图 is kind of plan and acting it in planning, but might not really put it into practice, while 试图 connotes you are trying it by acting it. – dan Jan 28 at 9:43
  • 1
    尝试 seems to be the most generally applicable (in particular to everyday activities) whereas 试图 may apply to more complicated/strenuous activities requiring a greater level of preparation or effort, 试图 does not necessarily have a negative connotation, cf. (bkrs) 他们试图摆脱困境。攀登者试图寻出一条通到山顶的新路线。作家试answering comment #2: 图摹写落日的光彩。他试图缓和紧张的气氛. also note (as in E) 尝试 may apply to tasting food: syn. 尝尝, 品, 品尝, 品味 – user6065 Jan 28 at 10:30
  • I would imagine 努力 do sth. would be the most colloquial translation of to try here. – user3306356 Jan 28 at 16:34
up vote 5 down vote accepted

嘗試 means simply "to try" or "have tried". For example,

"Try something new" => 嘗試新事物

試圖 is synonymous with 打算, and means "planning to do something". It can be translated as "try" or "attempt", but implies more of a plan. For example,

"Trying to write a book." => 試圖寫本書.

企圖 has the same meaning with 試圖, but with a negative connotation. For example,

"Planning to rob the bank." => 企圖搶銀行

For your case, both 她 嘗試 / 試圖 修復被撕毀的照片 can be acceptable. If she has not yet begun working on the photo, 試圖 sounds most natural. If she's already in the act, I would suggest 試圖 or 正在嘗試. If she has already finished, go with 嘗試.

嘗試 (v) to try (one's hand at)

試圖 (v) attempt to /seek to

企圖 (v) plan to /intend to ; (n) plan/ intention

"她嘗試修復被撕碎的照片。means "she tries her hand at restore the torn picture." (she actually acts upon her intention)

"她試圖修復被撕碎的照片。means "she attempts to restore the torn picture." (using 試圖 imply the action is either unlikely to success or not supposed to be carried out)

"她企圖修復被撕碎的照片。means "she plan to restore the torn picture." (using 企圖 also imply the action is either unlikely to success or not supposed to be carried out; but with a more deliberate and determined mindset than 試圖)

  • Do you mean that "企圖" indicates the action is just "a plan"? Is the action not happened yet? I see the first two sentences indicates that the action is already occurred (i.e. already took an attempt) based on your translation. – Reynaldi Jan 28 at 14:18
  • 企圖 only stated 'plan to' , the action itself may or may not had occurred. For example: "Pepsi builds a large factory in China 企圖 take over Coca-Cola's leading role in soft-drink market" -- The act of building a large factory showed it 企圖 (plan to) defeat Coco-Cola. On the other hand, if Pepsi just making all kind of plans but yet to carry out any of them, it is still 企圖 (plan) to defeat Coca-Cola. 企圖 itself is the action of 'to plan'. In 企圖修復, there's no mention of the action of 修復 has or has not been carried out. It can be either way. – Tang Ho Jan 28 at 16:47
  • I see. So you're saying that "企圖" is used to emphasize that the plan of an action is more solid / well-planned compared to "試圖"? – Reynaldi Jan 29 at 2:48
  • "企圖" is used to emphasize a 'deliberate plan' or a 'strong intention' (expecting to fulfill an objective) – Tang Ho Jan 29 at 3:16

她嘗試修復被撕碎的照片。

她試圖修復被撕碎的照片。

她企圖修復被撕碎的照片。

The first sentence is appropriate to interpret the English sentence you quote.

試圖 and 企圖 connote one's intention, pursue something. 企圖 has negative meanings sometimes. It sounds you plan something that will benefit you from others.

By the way, there is a mistake in your sentence. 被碎 should be 被撕碎.

  • Thank you for the correction, much appreciated. If you said that "試圖" expresses one's intention, shouldn't the second sentence also valid? – Reynaldi Jan 28 at 9:07
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    @Reynaldi you can, but the second one implies that the speaker think it's very hard or impossible to fix the torn pic, so the effort of trying might be in vain from his opinion. Your original English sentence doesn't have that connotation, hence sentence one is the best fit. – dan Jan 28 at 9:34

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