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"Try to" vs "try and"


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Hi everyone,

 

So my absolute biggest pet peeve in writing and speech is when people use the phrase "try and" instead of "try to". It used to only mildly annoy me, but not it drives me right up the wall!

 

As such I did a little research:

 

Dictionary.com says:

Replace try and (I will try and fix it) with try to (I will try to fix it). Some grammarians label try and as incorrect when really it is just very informal and best used in conversation. Try to is standard usage and appropriate for all levels of formality in both speech and writing. Other colloquial constructions are synonymous, or nearly so, with try to, such as be sure to and go and. Often try and is interchangeable with try to, but there are some contexts in which try and implies success, e.g., "Do try and behave," and others where try and is ironic and implies failure, e.g., "Try and make me move." Fowler's Modern English Usage (Burchfield, R.W., ed. New York: Oxford University Press [3 ed.], 1996) says, "It is an idiom that should not be discountenanced, but used when it comes natural"; but Fowler also wrote that it is "almost confined to exhortations and promises," and these are more common in informal than in formal contexts.

 

Well, they're certainly more tolerant of the phrase than I am. Interestingly enough, that whole "implies success" thing is exactly my beef with it! I've always said that "Try and" automatically seems to presuppose success!

 

"I'll try and do better"

"ahh, so you'll definitely do better then? Good to know"

 

The other option I had in mind was as a command or exhortation!

 

"Try and clear up this mess"

I just imagine myself walking into a room where a naughty child has swept through like a cyclone, and really I'm not just casually saying "ya know, try to clear this up. Whenever you have you time. Just if you get to it." NO, I'm saying "try AND clear this up! You really have no choice in the matter, you will try and you WILL clear this up".

 

Unfortunately most of the time this phrase is used it does not presuppose success and is not a command <_< With that in mind I went digging around for me!

 

Lynch, Guide to Grammar and Style says:

"Try and" is common enough in speech, but it's out of place in formal prose. Use "try to."

 

That's a bit more like! I'm already painfully aware that it's common in everyday speech. At least these folks are flat out saying (or at least strongly implying) that if you want to be taken seriously in writing you should try to make a better selection.

 

So, in effort to break this "tie" I sought out one more source, The Wordmill. They seem to have the most to say about it:

Most grammarians will endorse your position, at least in formal writing or speechmaking. The tradition is that when the first verb is a command or a strong request

(the imperative mood), the verb that follows should be in the infinitive form (to + verb):

Okay, so far so good! Once again it's clear that the experts and tradition are mostly on my side. Unfortunately...

However, in informal use, the word and often replaces the word to:

 

Try and avoid excessive noise.

Come and see us when you get a chance.

Be sure and get an application form on the way out.

 

Remember that grammar rules are arbitrary; they are not based on something inherent in the language, something that can never change. They are based on custom or style, realities that can and will change over long periods of time.

 

Think of grammar rules as temporary conventions that may work for a few generations, sometimes longer. The only reason they are useful is to ensure that we are all on the same page. When the page turns and new rules evolve, there is no problem, no violation of something sacred, as long as we still understand each other. Understanding is the point; grammatical conventions are merely a tool.

 

In practice, this means that the formal rule articulated above is not engraved in stone. Here

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  • Site Administrator
Matt scored a try and won the rugby match for his team
Matt scored a try to won the rugby match for his team

Nope -- definitely the first one.... :P

 

Seriously, though, I agree that narration should use "try to" but "try and" could be used in dialogue (just like "Wanna", "Do ya", etc. -- they are a pattern of speech that reflects the local dialect).

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Nope -- definitely the first one.... :P

Hmmm:

Matt scored a try and win the rugby match for his team
Matt scored a try to win the rugby match for his team

Oddly, it now appears to be the second :boy:

 

Seriously, though, I agree that narration should use "try to" but "try and" could be used in dialogue (just like "Wanna", "Do ya", etc. -- they are a pattern of speech that reflects the local dialect).

Well I object that...mostly because I like and accept "wanna", "gotcha", "dunno", and the like as valid informal speech and still object to "try and"...but obviously that's a personal bias. 0:)

Edited by AFriendlyFace
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Nope -- definitely the first one.... :P

 

Seriously, though, I agree that narration should use "try to" but "try and" could be used in dialogue (just like "Wanna", "Do ya", etc. -- they are a pattern of speech that reflects the local dialect).

 

When editing, if I see "try and" in the narrative, I suggest that the author reword it to "try to".

 

But as Graeme said, "try and" is, by nature, informal and therefore acceptable for dialog (in my opinion), especially when the writer's goal should be to make his dialog sound as natural as possible.

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  • 1 month later...

Yaay,go Kevin!! I love people who are as anal about grammar as I am. :music:

 

Damn! Another source pushing me to accept and tolerate the phrase a bit more :thumbdown:

 

Pushing you to try and accept, perhaps? 0:)

 

So, what do you guys think?

 

Should I just try to *grits teeth* and accept this nonsensical and stupid charmingly idiomatic phrase?

 

-Kevin

 

Haha. Well I've begun to give up on this one I have to say, though I used to advocate 'try to', always-- but it's a question of what tone you want, too; if it's first person, for instance, you may have to use 'try and' so the narrator doesn't suddenly sound like, well, a grammarian or something. And even if it's only third person it may be more suitable too, and in dialogue of course.

 

But in essence you are right. Down with 'try and'! :2hands:

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As far as I know, I have not used "try and". If I have, someone please PM me immediately and tell me exactly where you found it! I doubt it's there, because I am a bit of a grammar Nazi. :*)

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Try to... suggests making an effort.

Try and... implies a mandate to succeed.

 

I think there is a place for both. It depends upon the context.

 

In dialogue I loosen my rules quite a bit because nobody I know of consistently speaks in a grammatically correct style.

 

Tim, since I have all your chapters for everything you've done I did a search for "try and" but found no matches at all. :)

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  • Site Moderator
Tim, since I have all your chapters for everything you've done I did a search for "try and" but found no matches at all. :)

I was going to suggest the same thing.

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