The Grammarphobia Blog

Let’s try, try again

Q: I want to report a cringe moment on NPR: Seymour Hersh said, “They will try and fix the situation….” What? The expression “try and” from such a well-respected journalist? I asked you about this some time ago and you agreed with me on the blog.

A: As you mentioned, I had a blog item a few years ago about “try and” (often substituted for “try to”). As I said at the time, “try to” is correct in formal English, but “try and” is gaining acceptance in spoken and informal usage.

Now I’d like to defend the usage a little more vigorously. As Stewart and I write in our new book, Origins of the Specious, the expression “try and” has been around since at least the early 1600s, and nobody minded until the late 1800s.

In fact, “try and” may be older than “try to,” according to etymologists. We often find “and” between two related verbs, and nobody squawks.

Similar expressions, like “come and” (as in “come and visit me”) and “go and” (as in “go and see if it’s there”) have been around since the 1200s.

Why object to “try and see him” when it’s acceptable to say “come and see him” or “go and see him” or “stop and see him”?

I think the phrase has history on its side and we should try and get used to it. But be aware that some sticklers may find it trying!

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