Writing for Business

Aug 16 2012   6:31PM GMT

“Try and” vs. “try to”

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

Which is correct?
When I ______ print from the Web, my laptop reboots.
a. try and
b. try to

Answer: b.

This post is a response to a cry for help arriving in my email.

Subject line: This bugs me!

Message: I was just reading a gardening blog and came across this: “Try and remove as much of the plant as possible, as some will grow back from remaining roots.” Shouldn’t this read “try to” rather than “try and”? I see and hear this frequently! ARGH!

You’re right, Joan Diamond — and this post is for you! It should, of course, say “try to.” I don’t think anyone ever says “attempt and” but they surely substitute “and” for “to” in other phrases like “be sure and” instead of “be sure to.”

I think it’s time to poll the musicians again, check their grammar:

Rock and Roll Grammar Test
The Eagles failed on the Hotel California album with their song “Try and Love Again.” Donovan scored a grammar fail, too, when he wrote “Ah but I may as well try and catch the wind.”

Coldplay was both poignant AND grammatically correct, singing “I will try to fix you.” But… Drumroll please! Heart gets the gold for the way they pounded the grammar into our heads with their lyric, “Try to understand. Try to understand. Try, try, try to understand… he’s a magic man, Mama.”

As demonstrated by Google suggestions, a lot of people apparently search for the lyrics to “try and remember” unaware that the actual title is “Try to Remember.” (It was written about 50 years ago, when grammar was more popular.) When I tried “try to,” Google suggestions that popped up included “try to remember lyrics” and “try to remember forget lyrics.” Which I understand, I guess. Let’s try to remember to forget the “try and remember” lyrics.

Full disclosure: Joan Diamond is my sister, and she and I have probably sung most of these lyrics loudly and repeatedly, with a total disregard for the grammatical issues. Nevertheless, I suspect we sang the Heart lyrics with particular enthusiasm.

You can send me grammar questions, suggestions and pet peeves, too — even those of you I’m not related to and may have never sung with.

Follow me on Twitter @tao_of_grammar

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