Try and

I'm gonna try and change the course of hip hop again.

(Dr. Dre)

Typically, try can be followed by three kinds of phrases: a noun phrase (1a), an infinitival verb phrase with to (1b), or a verb phrase with -ing (1c).

1) a. I'll try the salad.

b. I'll try to eat this horrible salad.

c. I'll try adding vinegar to the salad, to improve the taste.

However, try can also combine with the conjunction and, followed by a bare verb form:

2) I’ll try and eat the salad.

This usage is very similar in meaning to try to, if not identical, but is deemed prescriptively incorrect (Routledge 1864:579 in D. Ross 2013a:120; Partridge 1947:338, Crews et al. 1989:656 in Brook & Tagliamonte 2016:320). In the next few sections, we will see that it has a number of interesting properties.

Who says this?

Try and is described as more prevalent in British English than American English, but is common in both varieties (Hommerberg & Tottie 2007). Brook & Tagliamonte (2016) show that Canadian speakers pattern with American speakers in their usage of the construction.

Try and is not a recent innovation – it first emerged in the late 1500s, although the earliest textual attestion is from 1390 (Tottie 2012, D. Ross 2013a). Tottie (2012) provides some examples of try and from EEBO-TCP corpus, including this one:

3) ...howe and by what certaine and generall rule I mighte trye and throughly discerne the veritie of the catholike faithe, from the falsehood of wicked heresye... (1554)
4) You maie (saide I) trie and bring him in, and shewe him to her. (1569)

Webster’s Dictionary (1989:919) suggests that try and in fact predates try to, and this conclusion is supported by Hommerberg & Tottie (2007:60), Tottie & Hoffman (2011) and Tottie (2012). However, D. Ross (2013a) disputes this, saying that “[t]ry and and try to developed simultaneously and independently”. What is clear is that try and has been around for at least as long as try to.

Syntactic Properties

Carden & Pesetsky (1977:86) note that try and does not behave like a regular case of coordination.

Question words are allowed

One property of ‘true’ coordination is that it is subject to the Coordinate Structure Constraint (J. Ross 1967), which states that a wh-word cannot move out of one of the conjuncts. This is shown in (5).

5) a. Mary [met Bill and ignored Susie].

b. *Who did Mary [meet Bill and ignore __]?

However, a wh-word can happily be moved out of a try and structure:

6) Who did Mary [try and talk to __]?

No reordering

A second property of pseudo-coordination that distinguishes it from regular coordination is that the two conjuncts cannot be reordered. In (6), we see that regular coordination permits the order of conjuncts to be changed, while in (7) we see that the same is not possible with try and (De Vos 2005:59).

7) a. John will wash the bathroom and kill mosquitos.

b. John will kill mosquitos and wash the bathroom.

8) a. John will try and kill mosquitos.

b. *John will kill mosquitos and try.

Both is not possible

Another piece of evidence that try and is not regular coordination structure comes from the unavailability of both. Usually, coordinated verb phrases can be preceded by both:

9) Reality is Broken will both [stimulate your brain and stir your soul]. [source, February 28 2017]

However, De Vos (2005:59) points out that try and may not be preceded by both:

10) a. John will try and kill mosquitos.

b. *John will both try and kill mosquitos.

Bare form only

Unlike with regular coordination, try and is available only when both try and the verb following and are uninflected, which means it must occur in its bare form. Carden & Pesetsky (1977) call this the bare form condition. The following examples are adapted from D. Ross (2013a:111):

11) a. I will try and finish the assignment.

b. I try and finish an assignment every day.

c. *I tried and finish(ed) the assignment.

d. *He tries and finish(es) an assignment every day.

e. *It’s tough when you’re trying and finish(ing) an assignment under pressure.

Dialect variation in the Bare Form Condition

Is the bare form condition universal? D. Ross (2013a:124-5) notes that it has weakened in some dialects, though not necessarily in the same way. In dialects of Northeastern Canada, parallel inflected forms are acceptable:

12) They tries and does that.

In South African English, on the other hand, try may be inflected while the second verb remains a bare form (examples from D. Ross 2013a:125):

13) a. Noeleen tries and find answers and solutions. [source, August 2006]

b. We’re trying and get across that nature is harsh but not necessarily full of malice and cruelty. (Dereck Joubert on “Wild about Africa,” Carte Blanche: March 18, 2007)

No separation of try and and

There are some other restrictions on the distribution of try and. Unlike with try to, try may not be separated from and by an adverb (Webster’s Dictionary 1989:919):

14) a. Try always to tell the truth.

b. *Try always and tell the truth.

Similarly, try may not be separated from and by negation (Brook & Tagliamonte 2016:308):

15) a. You try not to let it bother you.

b. *You try not and let it bother you.

No ellipsis allowed

Try and is incompatible with ellipsis of the following verb phrase (Brook & Tagliamonte 2016):

16) a. Sure, I'll try to.

b. *Sure, I'll try and.

Other instances of pseudocoordination

Infinitival to can be replaced by and in several other cases, subject to dialectal and individual variation. Brook & Tagliamonte (2016:302) state that the best candidate for a verb phrase that behaves like try is be sure:

17) Be sure and visit Harry tomorrow. (Carden & Pesetsky 1977:84)

D. Ross (2013a:122) provides several examples of other verb phrases in which infinitival to has been replaced with and:

18) a. Mind and get all right for next Saturday. (Poutsma 1905:361)

b. You know I go to all these different schools and I start and get mixed up after a while. (Hopper 2002:162)

c. Remember and wash your hair. (BNC: KE4 636, 1992)

Another instance of pseudocoordination is found with motion verbs, such as come and go:

19) a. Can you come and pick me up from the station?

b. I’ll go and get the mop.

D. Ross (2013b) argues that motion verb pseudocoordination has a different syntax and semantics from try and pseudocoordination. Syntactically, we can see that motion verb pseudocoordination is not subject to the bare form condition:

20) a. He came and picked me up from the station.

b. She goes and gets lunch every day at noon.

Semantically, go and entails that the event was completed, so in (21) below it is strange to use go and if the book was not acquired. In contrast, its non-pseudocoordination equivalent go to does not have this entailment.

21) The man will go to/*and buy the book, even if it is sold out.

Page contributed by Matthew Tyler on Feb 23, 2018.

Updates/revisions: June 27, 2018 (Katie Martin)

Please cite this page as: Tyler, Matthew. 2018. Try and. Yale Grammatical Diversity Project: English in North America. (Available online at Accessed on YYYY-MM-DD). Updated by Katie Martin (2018).


Phenomenon Category: 
Tense, Aspect, Mood
Phenomenon Dialect: 
Widespread American English