'try and' vs. 'try to'

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'try and' vs. 'try to'

Post by Ken Greenwald » Mon May 01, 2006 2:34 pm

My #1 son sent me an e-mail this weekend in which he was objecting to the following usage he found in the online BBC News:
<2006 “"It would be a mistake to try AND predict the outcome and I won't try to do so," said Microsoft lawyer Brad Smith.”—‘BBCNEWS,’ 28 April, (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/4953682.stm)>
He objected to the AND, feeling that it should be a TO, and asked for my opinion. I had never given this subject a thought and now that I did, I felt that they both sounded fine and that I’ve probably been using them interchangeable since I was a wee lad. But here’s what the big boys had to say on the subject:

American Heritage Dictionary

TRY AND – Usage Note: The phrase try and is commonly used as a substitute for try to, as in Could you try and make less noise? A number of grammarians have labeled the construction incorrect. To be sure, the usage is associated with informal style and strikes an inappropriately conversational note in formal writing. Sixty-five percent of the Usage Panel rejects the use in writing of the sentence Why don't you try and see if you can work the problem out between yourselves?
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Garner’s Modern American Usage

TRY AND is in American English, a ‘casualism’ for try to—e.g.: “Mr. Kemp, who seemed intent on slowing his normally rapid speaking pace, accused the Administration of ‘demagoguery’ in using ‘fear’ to try and [read try to] panic older voters with charges that Republicans endanger the health of the Medicare program.”—‘New York Times,’ 10 October. In British English, however, try and is a standard idiom.
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And from Britain we have Burchfield’s update of Fowler’s 1926 Dictionary of Modern English Usage which goes into considerable depth on this one.

The New Fowler’s Modern English Usage by Burchfield (1998)

TRY AND, TRY TO: Arguments continue to rage about the validity of try and followed by an infinitive instead of try to, ‘To be used only in informal contexts,’ ‘grammatically wrong’ are among the verdicts of some writers on English usage. Fowler’s judgment in 1926 was much more lenient. After briefly setting out the fact he concluded: ‘try and is an idiom that should not be discountenanced, but used when it comes natural.’ [[hmm. Not ‘naturally?]]. He also made out a sort of case for the semantic distinctiveness of try and constructions. In 1983 a Scandinavian scholar, Age Lind, examined a group of fifty modern English novels of the period 1960-70 and found that try to was likely to occur in certain syntactic conditions, try and in others, and that in some circumstances the choice seemed not to be governed by any particular reason. ‘If a subtle semantic distinction exists it does not seem to be observed,’ he concluded.

Over the last few years I have gathered a wide range of evidence, with the following results. Standard examples of try to occurred in many types of constructions: (preceded by an auxiliary verb) I think we should try to help him as a family—I. Murdoch, 1983; (preceded by the infinitive marker to) To try to forget is to try to conceal—T. S. Eliot, 1950; Mr. Stratton’s moods would always be a mystery, so much so that he had ceased to try to fathom them—P. Carey, 1988 (Aust.); (preceded by an adverb) I always try to travel light [[hmm. Some do say it can be used as an adverb]]—R. Elms, 1988; (separated from the infinitive it governs) He’s gone his own way, I go mine, or try to—K. Page, 1989. Parallel examples of try and for all but that last type are not difficult to find: (preceded by an auxiliary verb) We must try and find him at once—J. R. R. Tolkien, 1954; I will try and answer any question you have—S. Hodkey, 1981 (University of Oxford Lecture); (preceded by the infinitive marker to) he used to try and draw Dr. De Wet out—M. du Plessis, 1983 (Afra.); (preceded by an adverb) Frankly, even to try and make somebody happy is a gross and farcical mistake—Simon Mason, 1990.

Some other examples are less easy to classify: he glanced at her face to try and see if she was mollified—P. P. Read, 1986; I try to work on the assumption that they are all as smart as I am—Clive James, 1987 (Aust.); Let me try and set down the opposing points of view—Julian Barnes, 1991. It should be noted that some of the examples of try and are drawn from the informal atmosphere of a lecture room (James, 1987) a newspaper interview, or from non-British sources. Try and can also occur idiomatically in the imperative in such sentences as Don’t try and frighten me, which, as it happens, is to be found in Thackeray’s Vanity Fair (1847).

It is only when one turns to other parts of the verb (i.e. tries, tried, trying) the a gulf between the two expressions opens up. Try to substitute tries and (etc.) for tries to (etc.) in the following examples, and the impossibility of it all becomes apparent: He tries to centre his mind on that sound—C. K. Stead, 1984 (NZ); I . . . pace around and tried to absorb all the details—A. Brookner, 1986; Einar tried to coach us in semaphore signals—G. Keillor, 1986 (US); as if trying to guess what her answer should be—P. P. read, 1986.

Try and gains a small amount of additional currency, perhaps, from the use of and to connect two verbs ‘the latter of which would logically be in the infinitive’ (as the OED expresses it). The commonest of such verbs are come (e.g. You come and see us sometimes, won’t you?) and go (e.g. Do go and thank him). These two verbs, however, have no past or present tense restrictions. Clearly it is idiomatic to say You came and saw me yesterday and He went and thanked him last week. So the parallel with try and is far from exact.
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Ken G – April 30, 2006
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'try and' vs. 'try to'

Post by gdwdwrkr » Mon May 01, 2006 5:09 pm

This from The Careful Writer by Theodore M. Bernstein 1965

TRY AND
Used in place of the standard try to, as in “try and be good,”
the combination of try with and is generally acknowledged to be
characteristic of spoken language, i.e., colloquial.
There can be no doubt that in a few locutions it has a faintly different meaning from try to, which denotes merely an essaying of something. It can add a heartening tone, as in “try and be brave,” or a note of determination, as in, “I will try and practice every day.” On still rarer occasions it can be the only possible wording If A says he is going to punch B in the nose, the spoken challenging response is “Just try and do it”, if a pugnacious X claims Y’s seat at the football game, Y’s challenging response is “Try and make me move.” In either situation try to would not suit the intended meaning; it would not be idiomatic.
When allowance has been made for these exceptional uses—j to express essaying coupled with encouragement, determination, or challenge—the careful writer will cling to try to as the proper construction in the overwhelming number of situations. He will not write, “Mr. Smart decided to try and get Ernest Hemingway to write for the publication,” nor, “Soviet workers were urged to try and talk ‘believing’ comrades into becoming atheists.” It should be noted that whether the locution is try to or try and, only one action is contemplated: When we say “try and be good” we do not mean two separate things as the and would suggest; we do not mean try to be good and be good. Therefore the try and idiom is not parallel, as one authority declares, with “go and find one” or with “come and get it.” In these instances two actions, albeit closely related, are indeed contemplated. It is in no sense a casualism to write, “There are things about Hawaii that make a person wish he could pack up tomorrow and go and live there.”
The point being made here is that the go and and come and
idioms are standard and logical, whereas the try and idiom is substandard (except in the few uses already indicated) and illogical.

Technical point…….
This is my first attempt at using OCR, the scanner-program which scans the page of the book, recognizes the text, and converts it to text on my word processor which is the able to be edited. I am sure you wizards are familiar with this technology, but I do remember one of you saying that you enter text from your books manually.

Question.... Am I risking copyright problems by including the Bernstein entry above?

Thanks, Jim
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'try and' vs. 'try to'

Post by russcable » Mon May 01, 2006 5:29 pm

can anyone provide information or point me in the right direction concerning how you produce the effects you do in your postings?
Hint: Click on the words "Forum Code" beside the [h]Quick Reply box[/h].
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'try and' vs. 'try to'

Post by kagriffy » Mon May 01, 2006 6:53 pm

Ken, if your son is questioning BBC's use of "try and," their use is entirely correct, assuming, of course, that Microsoft's lawyer actually used that phrase. The phrase in question was part of a direct quote from the lawyer, NOT BBC's own statement. Whether grammatically correct or not, direct quotes should always convey the speaker's exact words. If the news source recognizes an incorrect word or phrase, they might label the quote with a "[sic]" next to the mistake. In this case, however, BBC didn't label the usage--presumably, because "try and" is considered acceptable (by some) in spoken language.
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Signature:
K. Allen Griffy
Springfield, Illinois (USA)

'try and' vs. 'try to'

Post by Ken Greenwald » Mon May 01, 2006 11:41 pm

Allen, His question was not on the validity of the quote but on the usage - is it 'proper' English?
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Ken - May 1, 2006
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'try and' vs. 'try to'

Post by gdwdwrkr » Mon May 01, 2006 11:53 pm

It would be a mistake to predict the outcome and I won't do so.
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'try and' vs. 'try to'

Post by paulwiggins » Wed May 03, 2006 1:56 am

The authorities cited are worthy of repect. That said, ''try to'' is more readily understood by people of varying degrees of English skills. In answer to the copyright question I think the usage comes under the ''fair treatment'' test that seems to be applied internationally.
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'try and' vs. 'try to'

Post by gdwdwrkr » Wed May 03, 2006 9:20 am

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'try and' vs. 'try to'

Post by Edwin Ashworth » Wed May 03, 2006 8:03 pm

Try and stick to "try to".
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'try and' vs. 'try to'

Post by Ken Greenwald » Wed May 03, 2006 8:26 pm

Edwin, GEZUNDHEIT!
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Ken - May 3, 2006
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'try and' vs. 'try to'

Post by gdwdwrkr » Wed May 03, 2006 9:01 pm

And as you 12-steppers may remember, "You try, you die."
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