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difference between "Aim at +ing" and "aim + infinite"
Thread poster: edo777
Local time: 03:37
Italian to English
Sep 24, 2008

Dear all,

maybe a naive question:
what is the difference between the followings: "Aim at +ing" and "aim + infinite"?

"aim at providing"
"aim to provide"

have different meaning, is the 2nd form incorrect or what..?

best regards,

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xxxJPW  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:37
Spanish to English
+ ...
No takers on this one? Sep 25, 2008

Perhaps this might shed some light, but if there's a difference, it's a subtle one.

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jlrsnyder  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:37
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
They're both correct Sep 25, 2008

According to my Canadian Oxford, aim can either be followed by at + a verbal noun (gerund, -ing) or by to + the base form of the verb (infinitive). Both these forms mean to intend or to try.
Inanimate objects or concepts can be aimed at a goal.
The policy was aimed at providing affordable housing.
The spotlight was aimed at the stage.
Human beings and organizations can aim to do things.
Slogan for a service provider: "We aim to please."
The corporation aimed to increase their market share by 10%.
Sometimes the idea of "aiming at" implies missing the target, as when a listener interrupts a rambling speaker to state, "I don't understand what you're aiming at."

I look forward to reading what others have to say about this.


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Anil Gidwani  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:07
German to English
+ ...
Depends on whether the emphasis is on the subject or object Sep 26, 2008

If the goal of the phrase is to highlight what the subject intends to accomplish, as in

"The company aims to garner USD ... for its expansion plans"

"aim to" is used. Here, the company's objectives are being highlighted, and the actual objective is not as significant.

If the goal of the phrase is to highlight the object intended to be accomplished, as in

"Harvard announces a major new initiative aimed at encouraging talented students...."

"aimed at" is used. Here, the fact that Harvard is announcing the initiative is not as important as the fact that the iniitiative is destined for a certain purpose.

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Local time: 03:37
Italian to English
thanks! Sep 26, 2008

many thanks for your explanations!

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Harvey Forge  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:37
French to English
+ ...
idiolect Oct 10, 2008


I felt that the foregoing were all very wise comments.

When I studied for my Masters in Translation at Westminster Uni, we studied the concept of idiolect i.e. some constructs might "sound wrong" or sound "less correct" to each individual than a given alternative. The reason put forward is that each individual has built up a glossary of what he or she has been more frequently exposed to over a life time, depending on where his or her parents came from, what he or she read, where he or she lived. This, as can be imagined, generates a mix-and-match type collection of turns of phrase etc that are unique to the individual.

Thus, speaking for myself, when I read the phrase, "the report was aimed at providing" it sounds totally incorrect. I would even have said "gramatically" incorrect. I think it is in fact rather sloppy english in this passive construction, but this is clearly debatable.

Also, for me "aim + at" is an Americanism. I wasn't exposed to it until I starting watching American TV and cinema, as I am a Brit. Perhaps I stand alone in this assessment?

Finally, and I think this has been suggested, in terms of contemporary usage, I think that "aim+at" is used in the sense of the goal not being an all-or-nothing, life-or-death goal. "I will aim at getting a good mark", is suggestive of an amenable, generous and accepting attitude towards the self - If I don't make it, guess what, it's not the end of the world. "I will aim to get a good mark" is immediately more focused, more resolute and more committed. More is at stake here. The speaker demonstrates that something is actually LACKING within him/herself that must now be obtained.

Is this overkill for such a tiny subject?

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