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"try and", "be sure and", "go" + verb
by Mark Israel
[This is a fast-access FAQ excerpt.]
These colloquial constructions are synonymous, or nearly so,
with "try to", "be sure to", and "go and" respectively, those
equivalents being undisputedly acceptable in both formal and
informal style. They are syntactic curiosities in that they can
only be used in conjugations identical to the infinitive: we can
say "to try and do it", "try and do it" (imperative), "I'll try
and do it", "if I try and do it", and "he did try and make the
best of it", but not "if he tries and does it" or "he tried and
did it" with the same sense.
Some commentators maintain that there is no semantic difference
whatever between "try and" and "try to"; certainly in many contexts
they are interchangeable: "I will try to/and attend the party
tonight." But in other contexts "try and" seems to imply success:
"Do try and behave" suggests that the only reason the listener is
not behaving is that he is not trying to. Then there are the ironic
contexts where "try and" implies failure: "Try and make me move."
Here, "try to" would not be idiomatic.
WDEU suggests that "try and" may actually be older than "try
to"; both are first attested in the 17th century. "Go" + bare
infinitive was used by Shakespeare ("I'll go see if the bear be
gone"; "I'll go buy spices for our sheep-shearing") but is now
nearly confined to informal American usage, and elsewhere to a few
fixed expressions ("hide and go seek", "He can go hang for all I
Most handbooks disapprove of these expressions in formal
style; even the permissive WDEU admits of "try and" that "most of
the examples are not from highly formal styles". Fowler wrote,
"It is an idiom that should not be discountenanced, but used when
it comes natural"; but he also wrote that it is "almost confined to
exhortations and promises", and these are more common in informal
than in formal contexts.