GrammarPhile Blog

Try and... or Try to...

Posted by Conni Eversull   Feb 1, 2011 5:30:00 AM

The following guest post was written by one of our former editors, Lynnette Goldy. Here's an example of something that really gets Lynnette steaming!

“Try and use proper grammar.”

I don't know why this rubs me the wrong way. Well, yes I do. It just sounds wrong. When I hear or read, "try and anything..." I know in my deepest self that the person writing or saying this is really attempting to "try to something". She is going to do only one thing, not two things.

Will she try and also use proper grammar? Well, I suppose one could try to do something and then accomplish it. But, the answer to accomplishing a "try and..." is an emphatic “no, it can't be done.”

Let's put it another way. Can you try and push a piece of paper off a table? Taking each phrase separately lends an understanding.

"Try." One can try but one accomplishes little.

"Push a piece of paper off a table." One can do this, if one tries to do it.

Seriously, try it. Put a piece of paper on a table. Now let's do first one and then the other. First, try. You ask, try what? Exactly. 

Now, push the paper off the table. Did you do it? Now let's do both as the phrase suggests. Try and push the paper off the table. While you are trying, also push. Don't try all by itself, and don't push all by itself. Do both.

Attempt to try and push at the exact same time. It can't be done. You either try or you push.

"Try and use proper grammar" indicates that you could try or you could use proper grammar. In this case someone wants you to both try and to use proper grammar. But really, just try or just use proper grammar. Don't try both. Just try one or the other. If you just try, you accomplish nothing. If you just use proper grammar, you would actually accomplish something!

Back to the other example. What can be done is to try to push the paper off the table. What you are really doing is trying to push. Actually, what you are really doing is pushing. You either can push the paper off the table or you can't push the paper off the table.

So, remember that you just can't try and do anything. But you can try to do something. Try to use proper grammar. Better yet, just use proper grammar.

Topics: grammar

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