Why 'try and' rather than 'try to' in British English?

Jay Nordlinger writes:

It is a curious fact that British people say “try and” instead of “try to”: “I’m going to try and make your party, but I may have to watch the kids instead.” They all do this: including the most literate and erudite. (I know this as an editor, of many sparkling Brits.)
I was reading a Q&A with the novelist Howard Jacobson in the Financial Times. Asked, “How physically fit are you?” he answered, in part, “I try and walk.”
As I said, curious.
Any suggestions?


  1. It's just one of those things, I guess. 'And' is used after not only 'try' but also 'be sure', 'come', 'go' 'wait', etc, in informal speech. It could be a case of bad usage creeping into mainstream use (For example, in some areas you can hear, 'She don't know that.')
    Strangely enough (or not), this usage only applies to the base form, so we say 'I'll come and get you then', but not 'I came and got you but you weren't there'. We'd say 'I came to get you, but you weren't there'.
    In US, their informal equivalent would be to drop 'and' altogether: Let's go see if Jan's in.
    All so complicated, isn't it?

  2. But we would say "I came and got you" if this action was successful. "I came to get you" only tells us the reason you came, and to my ear that suggests that I was unsuccessful. "I came and got you" tells me my mission is complete and was successful. Imagine adding "glad you were ready on time" to the end of each.

    Have a look at this googlefight for "try and get" and "try to get" - http://www.googlefight.com/index.php?lang=en_GB&word1=try+to+get&word2=try+and+get. "Try to get" wins, but there's hardly anything in it.

  3. I'm not sure about that, really. I'd have said, even informally, "I came to get you, and, boy, was I glad you were ready!" I might say, "I came, I got you, and then we left", but I don't think I'd have said "I came and got you and I was glad you were ready".

    What about "I tried to/and explain the rules to him" - would you say, "I tried and explained the rules to him and he understood"? I wouldn't.

    Oh, I'm not surprised at the fight results; like I said, we use it a lot informally, without thinking about it. It's when we stop to/and think about it, that we start leaning towards 'to'... ;-)

    But, tell you what, Kieran. Google fight 'she does' and 'she don't'; now, you WILL be surprised!

  4. Sorry, I said Kieran - perhaps I should have said Jay?

  5. I was relaying Jay's enquiry - he comes up with a lot of intriguing linguistic quirks. Many thanks for your insightful take on this topic and please feel free to comment on anything else that interests you on the the blog.

    Incidentally, 'Google fight' is new to me (have now Googled, of course!) Is it okay if I post 'What is a Google fight?' as a question? Will acknowledge with a link to your Twitter feed and/or blog if you wish.

  6. Google Fight has to be taken with a pinch of salt, as you've probably realised, Kieran, and sure, you can post it as a question - I don't own it ;-)
    I only discovered this blog by accident on Twitter, but have started following, so, hopefully, I'll be participating more :)


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