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I’m wondering about the phrase, “try and.” (Used like this: “I’m going to try and stop him.”)
I know that it’s technically grammatically correct, but is it okay to say it? Would it be better to say, “I’m going to try TO stop him” instead?
The construction "try and stop" is not really grammatically correct because the "and" means "to," as you suspect. The construction does not really have a compound verb--it's "try" followed by the infinitive "to stop" rather than "trying him" and "stopping him."
January 2, 2008, 11:06am
There is nothing wrong with "try and". Fowler called it a standard idiom. The use of "and" between 2 verbs instead of "to" has been part of English since the 13th century.
"try and" has been common in print for about 150 years. It is usually used in informal prose and dialog.
January 3, 2008, 8:24am
a) She ran in order not to be late.b) She ran in order to not be late.
Sentence b) sounds ok to me, although others have told me it sounds 'foreign' and 'ungrammatical'. I googled it and the numbers for both options are similar.Any ideas?Thanks!
January 4, 2008, 11:14am
Transitive use of the infinitive in what appears to be a colloquialism is, I believe, acceptable. Whether it is correct or not is another issue.
I'm going to try.+ I'm going to stop him.= I'm going to (try and stop) him.
February 18, 2008, 10:49am
I am going to try TO stop him is correct. Common usage of "try and" does not make it right.
Also, it should be a) She ran in order not to be late. Infinitives shouldn't be split.
February 18, 2008, 8:22pm
If common usage doesn't make it right, then what does make it right?
'In spring, when woods are getting green,I'll try and tell you what I mean.'- Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass
I think, Emma, I shall try and persuade her to stay longer with us. She and the children might stay very well.- Jane Austen, Emma
I ran to the door, intending to descend and try and join them through the main hall, as I thought that way might be opened for them.- Bram Stoker, Dracula
'Stand aside, my dear,' replied Squeers. 'We'll try and find out.'- Charles Dickens, Nicholas Nickleby
"I am going to try and tack it with a kiss, sister"- Herman Melville, Pierre
"Come on there, try and sit still a minute and answer my question..."- F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
February 19, 2008, 9:08am
a) She ran in order not to be late.
b) She ran in order to not be late.
I think they both seem needlessly wordy. Why not a) she ran so she wouldn't be late? That was it's clear that she's running because of something, rather than running in her assigned order. Replacing 'in order' with 'so' seems in order to me ;)
What makes b sound less natural to me is the word groupings there: while it makes sense, and may be grammatically correct, we don't usually seem to say those words together in that order: rather than to not, we almost always in any given phrase say not to. Rather than not be late, we usually say be on time, unless we are giving a specific emphasis.
I'm not a linguistics expert, but as i understand it we don't make sentences from words but rather from word groups. Sentence a seems to use those word groups more naturally.
March 12, 2008, 12:58pm
"If common usage doesn't make it right, then what does make it right?"
Excellent point, John.
I am constantly amazed at those whose philosophy of language usage amounts to little more than:
"Look at my Jimmy, he's the only one in the parade marching in step."
March 12, 2008, 7:04pm
i'm going to try and sleep now
March 20, 2008, 5:23pm
Try and be a little more open minded to the origins of phrases, as they are adopted into the English language.
March 30, 2008, 2:03pm
I see nothing wrong with "try and stop him." Do we have a problem with "go and see?" I don't.
JMM,re: "Look at my Jimmy, he's the only one in the parade marching in step."
and that would pretty much put Jimmy out of step with everyone else, wouldn't it!
That said, I personally prefer the "try to stop him" usage as I find it to be more direct and less wishy-washy sounding.
April 10, 2008, 10:19am
No, common usuage doesn't make a phrase grammaticallycorrect! Correct to who? There are many groups who speakin slang, eubolics, dialects, etc. who may not be grammati-cally correct but use colorful or colloquial languge that we allaccept like the famous writers above listed but still are notgrammatically correct. And, "try to stop him" and " go and see" are not the same kind of constructions.Each expresses two thoughts but the first is more redundant: totry to use some means to stop him and the second to go somewhere to see.
April 18, 2008, 5:49pm
Ok, fair enough, "go and see" isn't quite the same as "try and stop him" fine fine fine.
But you made the claim that common usage does not make a phrase grammatically correct and then attempted to back this claim by, well, repeating it. I claim that common usage DOES make a phrase correct. I will not spell out my arguments here, as they have already been spelled out many times all over this forum. I'd say the "this is she vs this is her" thread presents the discussion well.
April 18, 2008, 8:41pm
If you say "try to go to" you are adding a verb ,instead of only saying "go to" and you surely wouldn't say, "go and" ,as in "go and church"! so this involves two verbs "try to"and "go to", therefore, if you say, "try and go to" you are leaving out the "to" after " try" (out of slang or laziness orpresumption or etc.), you may think it's implied unconscious-ly or such, but, grammatically speaking or writing, it shouldbe there. So a saying can be of common usage but not be grammatically correct.Also look to the first comment above by "Delia".
April 19, 2008, 4:44pm
I learned that you should always use, 'try to' rather than 'try and'. The latter has the effect of altering the infinitive.
Infinitives should also not be split. For example: '....to not be late' is incorrect'...not to be late' is correct.You are splitting the infinitive 'to be'.
NOTE:I agree that common usage is not a satisfactory reason for language to be altered and 'deemed' correct.
Why bother with any grammatical books or lessons if we are to change them at whim? Why learn proper diction with rules and logic? Ignoring grammatical rules seems to water down the very institution of language that can be so potent.
I am a sucker for well written prose. I like to think of it as aspiring for great English instead of good English.
A colloquial hand is weaker than a colloquial tongue.
April 19, 2008, 11:59pm
"Infinitives should also not be split. For example:
'....to not be late' is incorrect
'...not to be late' is correct.
You are splitting the infinitive 'to be'."
Actually, you're right. You can't split an infinitive in English. To do that, you'd have to say something like:
"to gboldlyo" for "to boldly go"
In the construction "to+verb," the prepositional marker "to" is not the infinitive; the verb itself is.
April 20, 2008, 1:27pm
Jim, while I'm sure you think you are very clever, unfortunately, you are totally incorrect. In the English lanuage, the infinitive form of all verbs is "to <verb>". The word "to" is very definitely part of the infinitive. Without it, there's no infinitive. To run, to eat, to sleep, etc., are all infinitives, not run, eat, sleep.
April 20, 2008, 3:55pm
Elizabet is quite correct, what JJM is doing is messingup a word which has nothing to do with splittinginfinitives or any else. Moreover she wrote very elequently!
April 20, 2008, 4:00pm
I listed a number of quotes from good writers that use the construction "try and". Are these writers wrong? If they're wrong, then what is the justification for saying that they are wrong? Who makes the rules of English grammar, if not the users of English?
Some people here are arguing that common usage does not make something grammatically correct, but no one has provided any evidence to back up this claim.
April 21, 2008, 12:34pm
"Jim [sic], while I'm sure you think you are very clever, unfortunately, you are totally incorrect. In the English lanuage, the infinitive form of all verbs is 'to <verb>'. The word 'to' is very definitely part of the infinitive. Without it, there's no infinitive. To run, to eat, to sleep, etc., are all infinitives, not run, eat, sleep."
OK, answer me this then: what are "run", "eat" and "sleep" in the following examples?
I will run the generator again tomorrow
Steve couldn't eat his breakfast
Let the dog sleep on the bed
April 21, 2008, 12:54pm
"Some people here are arguing that common usage does not make something grammatically correct, but no one has provided any evidence to back up this claim."
Because that's the nature of many people's approach to grammar, John. It's based largely on the philosophy of "it's-wrong-because-it-is" followed by some sort of diktat on "correct useage."
Look at the response above that labelled me not "incorrect" but "totally incorrect" as if that statement alone was sufficient and authoritative.
April 21, 2008, 1:33pm
Elizabet's comments above are the last and best words onthe topic.
April 21, 2008, 4:01pm
"Elizabet's comments above are the last and best words on
April 21, 2008, 6:09pm
April 21, 2008, 6:13pm
One usually splits an infinitive with an adverb and that isgrammatically correct altho it can be done in varying degrees of obscurity! Now in writing "try and jump" instead of "try to jump", one iseither substituting the conjunction "and" for the preposition"to", which is not grammatically correct or one is leaving outthe "to" and thinking it's implied. Then the phrase means"try(to) and jump which is saying two different actions,oneincomplete:"try to ...(what?) and jump". So both are in-correct.
April 23, 2008, 4:59pm
"One usually splits an infinitive with an adverb and that isgrammatically correct altho it can be done in varying degrees of obscurity! Now in writing 'try and jump' instead of 'try to jump', one iseither substituting the conjunction 'and' for the preposition'to', which is not grammatically correct or one is leaving outthe 'to' and thinking it's implied. Then the phrase means'try(to) and jump which is saying two different actions,oneincomplete:'try to ...(what?) and jump'. So both are in-correct."
Yes, yes, yes.
Blah, blah, blah.
In all your "grammatically correct" pontificating, you are completely missing the point:
Is the speaker's intended meaning any less clear because the idiomatic expression "try and" is used instead of "try to"?
You are guilty of that age-old grammar pedant's complaint:
"That's fine in practice but how will it work in theory?"
April 23, 2008, 5:29pm
“Try and stop” is elliptical for “Try to stop, and stop”. In other words, it indicates not merely an attempt, but success. As such, it should be used only when actual success is achieved. “Also, it should bea) She ran in order not to be late. Infinitives shouldn't be split.”
First of all, this “split infinitive” stuff is just a load of BS that people with too much time on their hands came up with. Secondly, “be” is not an infinitive, it is subjunctive. Since “not” modifies “be”, not “to”, “not to be late” is just plain silly. “She ran in order to not be late” or “She ran in order that she not be late” is correct. “She ran in order not to be late” makes as much sense as “She ran in order not that she be late”. In other words, no sense at all.
“Infinitives should also not be split.”
That is incorrect on two counts. First, there’s nothing wrong with splitting infinitives. Secondly, “also” modifies the entire sentence, not “not”, and hence should be placed at the beginning of the sentence.
“Jim, while I'm sure you think you are very clever, unfortunately, you are totally incorrect.”
Sorry, you’re the one who is wrong. “Run” is the bare infinitive. “To run” is the full infinitive.
April 24, 2008, 10:20pm
"Secondly, 'be' [in 'should be'] is not an infinitive, it is subjunctive."
Nope. It's an infinitive - a "bare infinitive" if you like but an infinitive nonetheless.
Though given the limited inflection of English verbs,* you could also call it a "base form."
* The verb "be" has the most forms: eight (nine if you're one of those who considers "art" to still be a vald form in English).
April 25, 2008, 8:55am
No, "should" introduces a counterfactual statement, and therefore takes the subjunctive. Although perhaps one could argue that the subjunctive is a type of infinitive, as it is not modified by person, number, etc., and thus is largely non-finite.
April 25, 2008, 12:56pm
This is the first time I've seen it claimed that "should" is followed by the subjunctive. I thought it was clearly an nonfinite form of the verb after "should" and indeed all modals. Just because it's a counterfactual statement doesn't mean it has to be the subjunctive.
April 25, 2008, 2:51pm
For me, the modal "should" is doing all the subjunctive-cum-conditional work here. The verb "be" is just sitting there in its "base form" letting "should" shoulder the semantic load.
If nothing else, this should (ha!) at least show how ridiculous it is to attempt to hammer English into Latin grammatical formulas.
April 25, 2008, 7:26pm
"If nothing else, this should (ha!) at least show how ridiculous it is to attempt to hammer English into Latin grammatical formulas."
Amen to that. It's funny how people often walk aloof, knowing their English to be correct, when the basis for their aloofness comes essentially from some completely outlandish idea that Latin's rules describe all languages.
April 27, 2008, 9:29pm
*handing out cigars*
I love this one. "try and..." and "try to..." are, from common understanding, sometimes synonymous. I have learned to my cost that unless they are actually juxtaposed, most people will quite understand "try and.." until you use it specifically to mean an intent not merely to try but also to succeed. From this point of view, you end up with:
Distinguishing "try to" from "try and" enriches the language as they have potentially different meanings.
Using "try and" when you mean "try with the intent of succeeding" is usually understood as merely "try to".
Using the two in juxtaposition is jarring for most readers but nicely satisfying for some, so worthwhile if you know your audience.
As for split-infinitives, any argument against using them is specious. Not splitting infinitives is like keeping your elbows off the table - it keeps the sentence tidy for easier parsing, but serves mostly to allow those who consider themselves to have good manners to identify those whom they consider to have bad manners.
Ask yourself two questions:
1. If the infinitive is split, can I still identify it?2. Does splitting the infinitive introduce doubt about the intended meaning?
If the answer to either question is yes, don't split the infinitive. Better still, strike the line through and start again.
June 9, 2008, 7:51am
One hesitates to argue with Fowler, at least the second edition (not sure about Burchard though :) ).
However, I still use 'try to...' in preference to 'try and...', unless I am implying two actions, trying AND something else. It sounds better, and I shall never accept that simple prevailing usage makes erroneous grammar somehow magically correct. After all, how many folk these days know when to use 'Bill and I' and when to use 'Bill and me'?
June 17, 2008, 7:06am
BeeTee-Ess: If you believe that prevailing usage does not make "erroneous grammar somehow magically correct" (especially a usage that has been common in print for 150 years), then please explain what does make something correct.
June 17, 2008, 8:53am
"I shall never accept that simple prevailing usage makes erroneous grammar somehow magically correct."
Then why is Modern English so different from Old English?
Who made the lack of noun inflection, grammatical gender and extensive verb conjugation "magically correct"?
Why would you propose to effectively "freeze" the grammar of English and the continuing evolution of the language against all evidence that it is entirely futile?
June 17, 2008, 10:11am
John and JJM-
Didn't you guys know that English is going to sh!t these days? Man, nobody speaks correctly anymore. Of course, because grammar and usage is definitely on the decline, there must have been some high point, some shining apex where everybody spoke with correct and perfect grammar. The question I guess is, when was that? Must have been some time around 1:30 pm on February 23th, 1977. Yup. That was it. We've been plummeting ever since...
June 17, 2008, 11:47am
I think the comments about "try and..." implying success for the action of the second verb may be on the right track, but need some clarification. Completion may be implied, but actual successful completion is not necessary or even likely.
It seems that "try and..." is usually used in the imperative, future tense, or with modals, where the outcome is still indeterminate, but rarely if ever in the past tense or simple present tense.
It should be obvious that in "I will try and stop him", future tense, it is impossible to have already actually "stopped him" in the future.
Only in the past tense would actual success be required, which may explain why you rarely or never hear it.
"Just try and stop me," I said. So, he tried to stop me.
You wouldn't likely see "so he tried and stopped me," at least, not unless he actually "stopped me". If that was the case, you'd probably just see "so he stopped me".
Similarly, for go and see:
My dad said "Go and see who's at the door" so I went to see who was there
not "...so I went and saw..." Not necessarily incorrect, but I think less likely to be said.
In the imperative, etc., using "and", because of the implied required success may have a sense of determination not present when using "to".
June 24, 2008, 10:07pm
An infinitive is not the "to" form of the verb, as eighth-grade, prescriptivist English teachers proclaim, but the uninflected form, without attribution to time or individuals - thus infinite-ive. "To" helps nominalize the infinitive: "To eat is to live." "And" has become another nominalizer as in, 'try and eat some spinach!' A gerund works nicely, too. "Try eating some spinach!"
July 12, 2008, 1:58pm
A Pome for Phill
You bolloxed eubolics, ebonics, dialects,I wonders you walks totally erects, Quick and clear is real good and don't need no corrects.
July 14, 2008, 9:05am
You're right, Delia.
September 16, 2008, 1:08am
According to Bryan A. Garner, the writer of the grammar section of the Chicago Manual of Style and Garner's Modern American Usage, "try and" is a casualism in American English. It is, however, a standard idiom in British English.
October 20, 2008, 2:46pm
The claim that 'to + verb' is the infinitive in English appears to be an attempt to transfer Latin principles into English. Since a Latin infinitive usually can't be split (e.g. ire 'go'), prescriptivists came up with the idea that its frequent translation in English, 'to + verb', can't be split, either. This is simply untrue, however, as cognitively normal native speakers do it all day every day.
I must go.I have to go.
'I must go' but not *'I must to go' suggests that 'go' is the infinitive, corroborated by this:
I always have to go early.I have to always go early.?I have always to go early.
The third, which splits 'have + to', is by far the least preferable, suggesting [have to] [go] rather than [have] [ to go] as natural parsing.
This is even clearer in the case of 'going to' grammaticalized as future (intentional). 'going to' fuses as indivisible 'gonna':
I'm gonna buy a new car.
at which point (actually, long before) 'to' -- along with its reduced form in 'gonna' -- is no longer a true preposition. Compare
possible: I'm gonna buy a new car.impossible: *I'm gonna Chicago tomorrow.
The 'to' of 'I'm going to Chicago tomorrow' is a true preposition with semantics. The 'to' of 'I'm going to buy a car' no longer is, thus it can fuse with the verb (see also fast speech 'hafta', as in 'I hafta finish this!').
The analysis could go on and on, but the main point is that whether to split or not to split 'to + verb' is a stylistic question, not a grammatical one in the sense of binary grammatical/ungrammatical. And the stylistic question is essentially that of adverb placement (which seems to have gone a bit wacky lately).
November 9, 2008, 8:23am
Potpourri, while I agree with your main point, I think some of your examples are flawed. When replacing "must" with "have to", the "to" is not part of the following infinitive, go. in "I have to go", go is a bare infinitive. the "to" is part of the verb "have-to" not part of "to go" "Must" is a defective verb, i.e., one that does not have an infinitive. the phrase "to have to" (with two to's!) actually functions as the infinitive of must. It's I-have-to + the bare infinitive "go", NOT "I-have" + the infinitive "to go". It's even clearer if you use the future tense. "I will have to go soon" cannot be replaced by "I will must go soon". The phrase "have to" functions as the bare infinitive of "must".
November 10, 2008, 9:25am
Please forgive the bad punctuation/capitalization, above. I have a bad cold.
November 10, 2008, 9:31am
You can see it doesn't work grammatically because you can't make it a negative.
"Try to paint like this.""Try not to paint like this."
"Try not and paint like this" sounds ridiculous.
January 13, 2009, 4:16am
I think the second post got it right. "To try and" is perfectly acceptable idiom. However, it is still grammatically incorrect. Grammar exists, not just to keep English teachers in jobs but also to ensure clear communication. While it might be perfectly fine to say "I'll try and make it back on time" you might be less willing to sign up, contractually, to a promise "to try and make it back on time".
Good prose can (and perhaps must) sacrifice meaning for beauty, but contracts must do the reverse. To avoid quoting Lewis Carroll in court, it's best to get it "right" in the first place. The "to try to/and" argument has persisted perhaps for hundreds of years clearly because there is still a reason why "to try to" is important (and sometimes necessarily correct).
There are many other formulations that have gone out of use because they were both ugly and useless. "To try to" is only a little ugly (at times) but still useful. Hence it will persist until replaced by something better than "to try and".
January 13, 2009, 4:59am
Since I wrote the second post, I feel I must respond. I don't know what Jay means by "grammatically incorrect" but I think that "try and" is grammatical English - it has been part of English writing for 150 years. Also, the construction with "and" between 2 verbs has been part of English since the 13th century.
I disagree that proper grammar exists to ensure clear communication. There is nothing unclear about "try and" or other constructions that are considered improper grammar. Jay says that you wouldn't use "try and" in a legal document, but that's a claim about formality, not clarity.
January 13, 2009, 2:35pm
Q: Will you just try or will you also commit to completing the project on time.A: I will try and complete the project on time
Is the ambiguity in the answer just a matter of formality? If it was only formality, wouldn't that assume that the change of "and" to "to" carries no further substantial change in meaning?
BTW Let's assume this is all written to avoid the argument that inflection will alter the meaning.
January 14, 2009, 3:04am
I see how that example is ambiguous. It's not just a matter of formality. But why is it improper grammar? Ambiguity is everwhere. "Once I saw the Eiffel Tower..." is ambiguous - it could be a complete sentence or a subordinate clause. "I went to the bank" is ambiguous - "bank" has at least two meanings.
January 14, 2009, 5:58am
OK, I accept that ambiguity is not evidence of poor grammar. I also have to concede that without an "official" grammar, nothing in English could be termed correct or incorrect except by reference to usage and acceptance. "To try and" is certainly in common usage but it's clear there are many pedants, including myself, who are reluctant to let "to try to" go. Personally, being a grammar snob, I see "to try to" as superior to "to try and" (for some of the reasons already given by me and others) and I suppose that's all I can say.
January 14, 2009, 3:55pm
Well and let me and say this: Ah don't know nothin' 'bout nothin', Kirby! Now ain't that common usage? Here now andlet me and list a few "in-fin-ites" for ya: and try, and go,and start, and type, and ... etc.
March 5, 2009, 5:21pm
Hey John and JJM,Why be content with just screwing up infinitives insentence structure? Why not really DEVOLVE and takeup Wilson Kirby's eubolics?
March 5, 2009, 5:58pm
Personally I've always thought of it as, "I will try and succeed in stopping him," or "going to try and (will) stop him."
Dropping the "will" possibly out of laziness has become the norm.
November 13, 2009, 10:35pm
John was correct in his first posting. He cited Fowler. Merriam-Webster's "Dictionary of English Usage" also finds support for the idiom from Evans ("A dictionary of American Usage") and Follett ("Modern American Usage"). Garner ("A Dictionary of Modern American Usage") calls 'try and' an American-English casualism for 'try to', though Merriam-Webster gives examples from Lewis Carroll and Charles Dickens, among others.
Whether casual or not, 'try and' is not incorrect. Merriam-Webster says this:
"The basis for objecting to 'try and' is usually the notion that 'try' is to be followed by the infinitive combined with the assumption that an infinitive requires 'to'. This is the same mistaken assumption that has caused so much trouble over the so-called split infinitive. In spite of what these critics believe, however, infinitives are used in many constructions without 'to', and some of these constructions use 'and'."
The complete entry is lengthy, but worth reading. (The book is $20 well spent.)
Merriam-Webster closes with a quote from Fowler:
"It is an idiom that should not be discountenanced, but used when it comes natural."
I'll end with Jane Austin:
"Now I will try and write of something else."
November 17, 2009, 1:29am
I really ain't so sure that common usage makes a phrase correct, but at least we're trying to hone in on the question.And dickshunaries don't got the last say on spellin, neither.
Tom in TX
November 13, 2011, 2:59pm
The phrase "try and" is endlessly annoying to me. I think it's gaining steam because it's easier to say than "try to," and it implies ease of the task being attempted, rather than the prospect of failing. We just seem to like things that are easy.
If "try and" is correct grammar, would someone please give me a sample sentence using the phrase, and then give me that same sentence in the past tense? You can easily do it with "try to." I'm going to try to visit her." "I tried to visit her."
Can't do it with "try and," can ya?
Mike in Washington
February 25, 2012, 11:27am
Such substitution exercises are silly. They do not account for particular idioms and constructions like "try and". It isn't possible to use it in the past tense? So what? All this proves is that English apparently won't permit "tried and". It doesn't prove "try and" is "wrong".
Tell you what, try and (ha ha!) substitute "have" for "had" in the following:
"You had better try harder next time."
Can't do it, can ya?
February 27, 2012, 12:58pm
If you would never say, "I am going to attempt and climb that tree", why would you ever say, "I am going to try and climb that tree"?
TRY implies doubt regarding the outcome. AND removes the doubt. So, when you say "try and" you are being contradictory not to mention inefficient if you really mean "TRY"! And, if "try and" is what you really mean, then saying, simply, "I am going to climb that tree" is direct, accurate and correct.
And, common usage be damned. The Brits are NOTORIOUS for saying "try and" . . . King's English my ass!! It's just plain dumb.
It is almost never correct to say "try and" unless you are listing two words and "try" is the first one.
April 6, 2012, 6:06pm
The only thing you can literally "try and do" is try and fail. Otherwise, it's best to say that you will "try TO do something" or "try DOING something".
July 15, 2012, 4:24pm
Ok...I am an English speaker...and you ask, who should be allowed to make up the rules of English other than an English speaker?Let's try out your theory......AJK:jdslk; d;lasjo dod90-[pr a[[piri oipjhwioioerna'IF. HAJNND NN A SJJS EE.Do you agree with that statement, or are you having difficulty reading the English that I just made up according to your rules?Get a grip! Try engaging your brain before you add idiotic submissions to these forums!
May 21, 2013, 3:50pm
@Ray Riems - I think you're the one who's having difficulty reading English, as you somewhat misquote John, who has been one of the few people on this post to talk any sense, along with JJMBallantyne and Douglas.Bryant, who unfortunately seem to have given up on this forum.
What John actually said was "Who makes the rules of English grammar, if not the users of English?". He neither said "makes up" nor "an English speaker". And nor did anyone else, as far as I can see. What they talked about was "common usage", something very different from your interpretation.
And of course he is (they are) perfectly correct; the rules of any language come from what generations of speakers of that language (or specific dialect, for example Standard English) have decided is acceptable: that's where grammar comes from. It's only later that it gets codified in grammar books. The earliest English grammar books recognised this, as do most modern grammars. Unfortunately, in between we had the prescriptivists, who tried to carve certain rules into stone, and even more unfortunately, some people still take the same attitude.
Before advising people to "get a grip" and accusing others of making "idiotic submissions", perhaps you should try engaging your own brain, or at least learn how to read.
May 22, 2013, 6:46am
All the back and forth here has just reaffirmed what I thought was true.
"Try and <verb>" is a colloquial use. It's acceptable in speech and informal writing. It may be part of common usage but it is not strictly correct.
"Try to" is always safe, regardless of how pedantic a grammarian is. In writing, try to use that form instead, unless the goal is to sound more informal.
John makes many excellent points about the development of English. Usage does define a language to a point, once that usage is academically agreed upon. As you pointed out, however, this is an "accepted idiom." All of the examples from literature you provided are from either a first-person narrator or a direct quote from a character. In these cases, a colloquialism or idiom is allowed, especially from a master writer like those above. Great writers break the rules all the time; it's part of what makes them great. For the rest of us, it's probably better to follow the rules.
August 1, 2013, 9:28pm
@DC Howard - I don't want to knock you, because I broadly agree with you as regards usage, but I'm puzzled by one or two things. If something is idiomatically acceptable, how can it be 'not strictly correct', or do you perhaps mean it is inappropriate in formal language. And I wonder who decides when something is 'allowed'.
Most of us use formal English very rarely, so I'm puzzled why some people think that what is appropriate for formal language is the only thing that can be 'correct'. How can something that is OK in informal (i.e. normal) language be 'not correct'?
Normal language as used, for example, by the editorial board of the New York Times - "The government went so far as to try and convict a dead man for tax evasion" (Mr. Putin Tries to Crush Another Rival - July 18, 2013
And by a staff writer at the Guardian - "in its biggest initiative to date to try and convince marketers to branch beyond TV advertising." (Mark Sweeney 20 June 2013 - despite the Guardian Style Guide's injunction - "never 'try and' "!)
And a correspondent for the Telegraph, in an article title - "Brazil president Dilma Rousseff proposes referendum on political reforms to try and quell protests" (Donna Bowater - 25 Jun 2013)
And from an academic essay (2011) by Tessa Humphrys (at Google Books) - "Did the UK government use PR to try and win hearts and minds in the run up to the Iraq war? If so, how successful was this?"
And the British leader of the opposition, Edward Miliband, quoted on BBC News - : "People who try and divide us will fail"
And BBC News itself - "A Nene Clinical Commissioning Group (NCCG) spokeswoman said it planned to meet Labour councillors on Thursday to try and answer their concerns."
It's interesting that in nearly all those examples "try" is part of a "to" infinitive; perhaps the writers were unconsciously trying to avoid a double 'to' - "to try to". What's more we can't use it as a universal substitute for "try to". We can say "to try and" and "will try and", but "trying and" just don't work, and neither do past forms.
Merriam-Webster Dictionary of English Usage points out that it has been socially acceptable for two centuries ,and has been common in print for a century and a half, although it admits that it is not used in an 'elevated style'. When was the last time any one of us wrote in an elevated style, I wonder?
Several people have quoted Fowler, but not I think this bit (First Edition) -"It (try and ) is, therefore colloquial, if that means specially appropriate to actual speech; but not if colloquial means below the proper standard of literary dignity." He then suggests that "try and do" has "a shade of meaning that justifies its existence".
August 2, 2013, 12:52pm
I've been pondering this. If enough people spell/pronounce/use a word/phrase in a certain way, does that make it correct?If enough people say "nucular", is that pronunciation correct?If enough people write "supercede", is that spelling correct?If enough people write "Sorry your leaving", is that correct?
PS: I think "try and ..." is perfectly fine in all but the most formal of situations.
PPS: I notice Tom in TX wrote "hone in on" (Nov 2011). Is that accepted usage now?
August 3, 2013, 6:43am
Ah, I now see that "hone in" vs "home in" was a hot topic on here in late 2011. Hence Tom's use of "hone in".
August 3, 2013, 6:52am
@Chris B - it probably depends on who the people are. I'm not so sure about spelling, which is a bit more fixed, but if enough educated speakers of Standard English use a word or phrase a certain way, and the dictionaries, which reflect usage, pick it up, and if enough other educated speakers accept it, yes that will make it correct.
That's why addressing a single person as 'you' rather than 'thee' or 'thou' is correct. This came out of usage, not grammar books, and this usage was simply picked up by the grammars. That's how English formed, after all (except for the dictionaries).
Incidentally, according to Bryan Garner, while this is regarded as a colloquialism in the US, it is a standard idiom in Britain, a point the British etymologist Michael Quinion at World Wide Words agrees with.
August 3, 2013, 11:05am
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