[Ads-l] _try to_ vs. _try and_

Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at STANFORD.EDU
Tue Nov 8 07:08:37 EST 2016


discussion from Wilson Gray, Robin Hamilton, and now David Daniel, all starting this topic as if no one had ever considered it before.

PLEASE PLEASE start with the sources, in particular Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage, a volume everyone on this list ought to have (it's not at all expensive) and consult.

MWDEU has a substantial entry on _try and_.  it's been common in print for nearly two centuries now, in both the UK and North America.  yes, it's an idiom (but why is that somehow a count against it?).  yes, it's often in alternation with _try to_ (but why would anyone claim that there should be no variant usages?).  yes, it's more common in speech than in writing (but why should that somehow be a count against it?).

MWDEU's entry ends with this quote from Fowler 1926 -- yes, *that* Fowler, in *1926*:

   It is an idiom that should be not discountenanced, but used when it comes natural.

there is probably no truth-functional difference between _try and_ and _try to_, but the two often differ in more subtle ways -- consequeces of the fact that _try to V_ is hypotactic (and connotes a close, tight relationship between the denotations of _try_ and V), while _try and_ is paratactic (and connotes a looser relationship between these denotations).  and they tend to differ registrally.

if you don't like _try and_, don't use it; everyone has irrational prejudices, and you're entitled to yours.  but don't piss on people -- LIKE ME -- who do use it; there's nothing wrong with us or with the way we talk..

arnold

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The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org


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