For example, in the sentence

I went to town and did some shopping.

Can we safely assume this means I went to town in order to do some shopping?

In other words, did the person go to town in order to go shopping or is that unknown?

  • I couldn't think of a better way to title the question, any suggestions are welcome. Sep 20, 2011 at 13:22
  • 3
    You might want to try and expand the question with the ever-popular "try and" formulation. It is like fingernails on a chalkboard for anyone who cares a fig about grammar. Though that question has already been raised: english.stackexchange.com/questions/456/…
    – JeffSahol
    Sep 20, 2011 at 13:41
  • 1
    The word "to" on its own can have several meanings. Why not phrase the question: Can “and” mean “ in order to”?
    – Urbycoz
    Sep 20, 2011 at 13:43
  • Your interpretation could be called 'reading between the lines'. (Or between the words, so to speak)
    – Kris
    Jan 13, 2012 at 9:27

4 Answers 4


They do not mean the same thing.

I went to town to do some shopping.

This means that I went to town for the purpose of shopping.

I went to town and did some shopping.

I went to town. I did some shopping. I may or may not have done the shopping while I was in town, and shopping may or may not be the reason I went to town, but this sentence does not specify whether either is the case.

  • 3
    Actually, it doesn't even imply that the shopping was performed in town. A similar sentence could be "I went to the lake, and did some shopping." Obviously, the shopping was not performed at the lake. Sep 20, 2011 at 14:33
  • 2
    @chris: you are correct of course (+1), but it is not obvious, it is ambiguous at best. I can think of plenty of lakes which have at least one store close enough to count as "at the lake" (bait shops and general stores come to mind). I might reasonably guess that they are not connected, but I wouldn't put good money on it.
    – horatio
    Sep 20, 2011 at 17:09
  • @chris Good point, I've edited the answer to reflect that.
    – yoozer8
    Sep 20, 2011 at 19:11
  • -1 : only a badly programmed language interpreter (or defence lawyer) would doubt that the shopping happened in town!
    – cindi
    Sep 21, 2011 at 8:27
  • 1
    @cindi in this case, it is likely that the shopping happened in town, and the sentence would generally be understood to mean just that. However, in general, sentences of the form "I did this and did that" do not imply that "this" and "that" are directly related actions (such that the sentence is equivalent to "I did this to do that."
    – yoozer8
    Sep 21, 2011 at 12:10

The phrase "go [somewhere] and [do something]" is very common in English. It does imply that the "something" came after the going.

But in answer to your specific question, I would say No, it does not necessarily mean that the shopping was the purpose of going to town.

In this case, it quite likely does mean that, but that is because of the circumstances, not the construction. "I went home and watched television" does not imply that the watching was the purpose of going home.

  • 2
    I agree, but other combinations such as ‘go and see’ and ‘go to see’ are much closer. ‘Try and do’ for ‘try to do’ sometimes, but needlessly, attracts criticism. The ‘try and’ variant is merely informal and, as Pam Peters says in ‘The Cambridge Guide to English Usage’, expresses a supportive attitude. Sep 20, 2011 at 13:53
  • @BarrieEngland: yes, I didn't mention the "go and" construction, which I think is not necessarily the same as the "go [somewhere] and" construction.
    – Colin Fine
    Sep 20, 2011 at 15:48

Using and kind of implies that shopping was not your essential objective of going to the town. However, usage of to implies that the objective of your visit to the town was shopping.

  • I don't think "and" has an implication either way.
    – Colin Fine
    Sep 20, 2011 at 15:51
  • @colin I can see some merit in your argument, but and does create a doubt as to shopping being the main objective and this is what I am exploiting.
    – check123
    Sep 20, 2011 at 16:47

Yes, yes it does, but not always.

On its own, it has the meaning you have identified, but is ambiguous. Depending on the context, the only connection might be that the shopping happened after going into to town (e.g. "I went into town and did some shopping. The shopping was at the out of town shopping centre.").

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