On the current status of try and

As a non-native learner of English I was taught in school that try and was a typical English idiom, and I’ve always happily used it. I was therefore surprised to learn that try and was reported as being one of the pet linguistic hates with BBC news writers.

My awareness of this usage problem was recently heightened by the fact that a reader of a draft version of a book I’m writing commented on my regular use of try and which he or she said was “too informal for scholarly writing”. I’ll follow the reader’s suggestion, and change all my try ands to try tos (even though I don’t like “to try to …”: too many tos!).

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3 Responses to On the current status of try and

  1. Cornelis van Eykelen says:

    Google gives 2,980,000,000 hits for “try and”; 6,690,000,000 for “try to”. Of course there are false hits like “try and try again”, but “try and” is rather frequent.

  2. I believe you are in good company: Fowler already wrote that “try and” should be used in writing where it comes naturally. This may be especially the case in a promise like “I’ll try and follow the reader’s suggestion”. But this appears to be one of those (relatively) rare cases in which language has become more formal over the past century. Compare this Ngram: http://books.google.com/ngrams/chart?content=will%20try%20and%2Cwill%20try%20to&corpus=0&smoothing=3&year_start=1800&year_end=2000

  3. Evangelia Stergiou says:

    I see the use of “and” instead of “to” as a choice softening the imperative mood and that might well be the user’s intention
    As Jane Austen said, “Now I will try and write of something else” (1813)

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