I was told that it is possible to use: "Я попробую" when referring to "i will try" (to answer the question). I know that the verb: "попробовать" means "to try". Is there some other phrase/s that could be used and that is/are perhaps more commonly used when want to say that I will try to answer the question (give it a try)?
Actually я попробую is the best translation. Попробовать means to try tentatively. "Trying" as in "making an effort" is better expressed by different verbs, постараться or попытаться. One is for sustained effort, the other one is more all-or-nothing, but still different from попробовать which is more about seeing what happens.
I agree, this is one of those cases that are better translated in slightly different words than original. "I will give it a try" closer to word-to-word translation would be "я сделаю (одну/некую) попытку". (A try - in English here is a noun.) But in English it is kind of idiomatic phrase (they do not care much that this will be exactly one try). "Я попробую" is the best counterpart in Russian by frequency of usage. Prefix по- changes the verb into perfective aspects and hints to single try only. May 22, 2017 at 20:36
I have been trying (я старался) to answer this question myself over the years. Here's what I came up with:-
Я попробую = I will try - i.e. give it a go (проба = a trial, a sample)
Я постараюсь = I will try - i.e. make an effort, be diligent (старание = diligence, effort)
Я попытаюсь = I will try - i.e. give it everything, torture myself to do it (пытать = to torture)
Hope this helps
3Etymology's explanatory power is limited in general, and here, you're putting the cart before the horse in etymologising попытаться. -пыт- is the root for asking or finding out. Hyper-literally, пытать means to get answers out of someone; nothing about the word itself suggests inflicting pain, that meaning is secondary and somewhat metaphorical. Likewise,пытаться is not about "giving it everything". It can be that too, but primarily, it's about going in without knowing if your attempt will succeed or not. May 22, 2017 at 14:37
Thanks for that correction Nikolay. As you can probably gather, I am trying (я стараюсь) to piece the Russian language together without a proper teacher and it's easy to make wrong assumptions! May 23, 2017 at 9:37
In addition to what has been said here, one can try (можно постараться) to come up with even less obligatory modalities. Both стараться and пытаться can be regarded as verbs of indefinite commitment, though this semantical trait is not obvious.
Е.g. one can dodge obligations with phrases like:
[смотря] по обстоятельствам
как фишка / карта ляжет
как звёзды сложатся
Basically, any future forms with по- can be rendered as a future of uncertain modality (indefinite commitment).