Professional Style

Try and

August 2010
Spot the Error

After the death of his father from lung cancer, Stephen vowed that he would try and quit smoking for good.

Although frequently linked together in spoken English, try and is grammatically incorrect. The correct combination is try to.

The use of and denotes two actions—the trying and the doing—which causes confusion. If Stephen “tries” to quit smoking, the outcome is uncertain; he might be able to quit, he might not. If, however, he’s determined to quit, he will just do it; there is no “trying.” So, which is it? Is he vowing to quit or vowing to try? If the outcome is uncertain, use try to. If there is no uncertainty, just leave out try altogether.

Note: A similar dual-action situation occurs with sure and, as in “Be sure and tell Stephen that those nicotine patches can make quitting a lot easier.” Make it sure to.

~ Thank you, Jane B., for your topic suggestion.

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