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What is the difference between try to do and try and do?

To me (non-native speaker), asking someone try and do this seems a bit rude. It's like saying you can try all you want but this must be done: try and fail is not an option. However, asking someone try to do this means I am asking you to try: success is bonus, failure is OK.

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Tolkien's editors corrected "try and" to "try to" in The Lord of the Rings, and Tolkien changed it back. Read into that what you will. –  TRiG Oct 15 '10 at 14:11
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Do or do not -- there is no try. –  sibbaldiopsis Apr 13 '11 at 2:13
    
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11 Answers

up vote 27 down vote accepted

"Try and" has largely been relegated to colloquial use, and "try to" is generally considered the correct form. They are basically synonymous. "Try and" is not really more rude, in my opinion. According to alt.usage.english, "try and" is probably older than "try to," and, when used, implies success or failure of whatever action is being attempted.

As far as speech goes though, they're the same thing. If you're writing, "try and" is generally discouraged.

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Well detailed answer. +1 –  VonC Aug 11 '10 at 18:36
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+1 for the AUE FAQ. Note that (according to the link) although some commentators hold they are synonymous, everyone agrees "try and" is more colloquial, and Fowler says "try and" is "almost confined to exhortations and promises" — thus it does seem to imply or expect success (at least to Fowler). –  ShreevatsaR Aug 11 '10 at 19:52
    
I'm surprised to learn that "try and" is older. I had assumed that the "to" was part of an infinitive. "I will try to play basketball" easily switches to a gerund: "I will try playing basketball." "Try and" always sounds like two actions. "I will both try and play basketball." –  J.T. Grimes Aug 11 '10 at 21:38
    
A few years ago I had to move to a Spanish speaking country, consequently having to learn to speak Spanish. I remember learning that "try and (insert verb)" doesn't translate in Spanish, and that the correct pronunciation is "try to (insert verb)." After I'd moved back to America, it made me cringe every time I'd hear someone say "I have to try and (do whatever)..." –  Jagd Aug 11 '10 at 23:19
    
Looking through Google books, there are lots of uses of "try to" before 1820, but relatively few uses of "try and" where "try" does not mean "hold a trial for", as in "we will try and punish him." –  Peter Shor May 25 '11 at 21:30
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I believe "try and do" is more of an oral expression, but has the same meaning as "try to do".
In writing, I would always use "try to do".

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+1 I often say 'try and' (just through habit, I guess) but I would never think to write it. –  CJM Dec 15 '10 at 15:17
    
@ VonC. _I believe try and do is more of an oral . . . , but it has the same meaning as . . . . _ I thought you might want to know how to say this correctly in English. –  Babs Jan 29 at 17:46
    
@Babs Thank you. I have edited the answer. –  VonC Jan 29 at 18:08
    
@ VonC. de rien. –  Babs Jan 29 at 18:56
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"Try and...", while accepted in everyday usage, always sounds wrong to me, as if the speaker is commanding you to do two things: try something unspecified, and then do this other thing.

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"Try and do" is the form of "try to do" in my native dialect (centered in Pittsburgh, maybe), and probably wouldn't sound strange to any American or Canadian. A related construction is "needs done" instead of "needs to be done", which is more rare outside that dialect.

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Try and is a paraphrase of try to, typically used in informal promises and instructions, as in: I’ll try and keep in touch with her [and] Try and come soon. It expresses a supportive attitude, as Fowler (1926) noticed, and has a particular interpersonal role to play, hence its relatively high frequency in conversation.

From the article in ‘The Cambridge Guide to English Usage’

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When in doubt, remember the words of the great orator, Bart Simpson:

"I can't promise I'll try, but I'll try to try."

On my suggestion, now enshrined in the Guardian style guide:

try to
never "try and". As Bart Simpson put it: "I can't promise I'll try, but I'll try to try"

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Your suggestion was it? I just called Wintour and Watt out for breaking the rule. I should have linked back to this answer! –  z7sg Ѫ Jan 30 '12 at 18:19
    
The rule was already in the guide, I suggested the Bart quote :) –  Hugo Jan 30 '12 at 21:25
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There is no difference. "Try to" is the "classic" version -- "try and" has been increasing in usage recently (and is quite the pet peeve of mine), but I've never known an English speaker to see a difference in meaning between the two.

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This is really strange, in Norwegian it's a lot of confusion between homphones "og" (meaning and) and "å" (equivalent to the word to) that are pronounced the same (the g is silent, and o is sometimes the same sound as å, which is approximately the same sound as the vowel in "wall"). This is not surprising, but I've noticed the same confusion occur in related languages like English where it's not homophones.

Perhaps it's something about the grammar of the Germanic languages that causes this difference to be hard to understand?

(There could be a slight intentional difference in meaning between "try to" and "try and" but usually it seems like a mistake)

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"Try and do" is regarded as a colloquial and ungrammatical version of "try to do", but is really grammatical if you accept that it expresses a slightly different meaning technically. "Try and do" seems to imply that you will try, but that you WILL do something, while "try to do" doesn't seem to express any certainty about the outcome of your trying. That said, people generally use "try and do" to mean "try to do", and you can save it from being labeled ungrammatical by calling it idiomatic.

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The use of "try and" seems to me to be an effort to build optimism into the language. If one actually is unsure of success one would appropriately say, "I will try to succeed." However, If there is no doubt that success will occur what need is there to insert "try and" into the phrase when then one could simply say, "I will succeed."

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When used correctly, the conjunction "and" in "try and" means there are two distinct thoughts. If there is a continuous thought, always use "try to".

For example, in football a runner would try to score. He may or may not succeed. If you say "try and score" you are separating the try from the score. He is going to try and he is going to score. Since scoring is directly connected to what he is trying to do, the only correct way to say it or write it is "try to". They do not have the same meaning though some people use them as having the same meaning. You can prove this by using other tenses of try.

On that play the runner tried and score.

Obviously that does not work. It should be written as tried to.

The runner tried to score on that play.

or

The runner was trying to score.

Just because many people get it wrong does not make it right. Consider these two sentences:

The inventor will try to succeed in making his project work.

or

The inventor will try and succeed in making his project work.

They both could be correctly used but one means he may succeed while the other means he will try and he will succeed.

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