Don’t “Try and” Do Anything!

One of my big pet peeves is the “try and” construction, which many writers fall victim to because we have learned to talk this way. I see this often in published novels; obviously, the copyeditors and proofreaders of many publishing houses don’t catch this error either. When you use this phrase you are not talking about both trying and doing something else. You are talking about trying to do something.

Wrong:

Try and help me move this boulder.
I want to try and understand what you are saying.

Correct:

Try to help me move this boulder.
I want to try to understand what you are saying.
Try to pay attention to this often used but misused expression.

This also applies to the phrase “be sure and . . .” as in “Be sure and tell him I’m coming.” The correct way to say this is “Be sure to tell him I’m coming.”

4 Responses to “Don’t “Try and” Do Anything!”

  1. Mary January 13, 2012 at 5:23 am #

    I will “try” to keep this in mind in future copy-edits!

  2. Steve January 14, 2012 at 5:01 am #

    Actually, I would remove “try to” altogether and thereby get to the real point. See if you agree:

    xxx xx help me move this boulder.
    I want to xxx xx understand what you are saying.
    xxx xx pay attention to this often used but misused expression.

  3. kathryn magendie January 15, 2012 at 7:44 am #

    Yes! so true – and I know I fell down on this one for a long time before I caught myself. Old habits don’t like to die; they love to hang around.

  4. Jennifer Brown Banks January 22, 2012 at 4:50 am #

    This post is on point! It seems you and I share the same sentiment on the “try and do” don’ts. 🙂

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