John Larrysson's Column : Try and vs. Try to

Some teachers claim that try and is an error and it should be replaced with try to


I will try and help you.

I will try to help you. 

What is happening, in the first sentence, is that the word and is being used to combine two verbs (try, help). In the second sentence the two verbs are written together without a conjunction, however the second is in the infinitive form (to help). Both structures are in use in English.

[audio 1]

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, try and is a valid structure in the English language. The verb try can be "followed by and and a coordinate verb (instead of to with infinitive) expressing the action attempted." The examples given include:

"They try and express their love to God by their thankfulness to him."

1686 The history of monastical conventions and military institutions

[audio 2]

The structure try and is only one example of this type of English grammatical use. The grammatical structure try and + another verb is very ancient in English. The word (conjunction) and can be used to connect two verbs, the second of which is logically limited by the first. The first verb is often try, come, go or send. Common structures include: Try and speak, try and teach, go and thank, go and buy, write and thank, come and see.... Examples from the Oxford English Dictionary include:

ancient quotation:

Drihten, alyfe me ærest to farenne & bebyrigean

(In Modern English: Lord allow me first to go and bury...)

c1200 West Saxon Gospels,

modern quotation:

"He invited Josephine to come and see the plaster."

2004 Woman in Bronze  by A. Sileika, 

(Oxford English Dictionary reference: try v. 16b, come v. 4c, go v. 30c, send v.1 8b,  sure adj., adv., and int. Phrases 7a.) 

[audio 3]

In more formal English, one does not use a conjunction between two verbs, but instead one uses the infinitive form of the second verb. In most cases that means replacing and with to. Using and between two verbs is not wrong, but it is less common than using to.1 Sometimes using and is considered informal, so should be avoided in important documents, such as business letters. However first make certain that your meaning is clear. Choose to or and between verbs to make your meaning clear and easy to understand.

[audio 4]


1. According to both the Corpus of Contemporary American English and the British National Corpus: The use of try to is 9 times more common than try and in American English and 2 times more common in British English.

by John Larrysson [email protected]

A native English speaker who has been teaching practical English in Hong Kong for over two decades.


NOTE: Starting in 2016, this column has been published once every two weeks, on every other Tuesday.

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