"To try to" vs "to try and"


New Member
Hi all, I apologize if this shouldn't go here but I just got to session 168 and am listening to the great to try to vs to try and debate, and felt compelled to weigh in.

I have lived my whole life in rural Kansas and can honestly say I probably hear "to try and" more often than "to try to". I've thought about the circumstances surrounding the usage of each and from my experience it has less to do with certainty and more to do with choice.

"To try to" is usually used when there is an option of not doing the action (we're going to try to make it to your party, we're going to try to be on time). Normally if you don't succeed there is no real consequence.

"To try and" is usually used when you have no choice (we have to try and get the cattle back in, we have to try and get the tree limb off of the roof). The action being described, no matter how difficult or near impossible, must be attempted and succeeded at almost all cost. Usually the consequences are much higher and your honor or duty leaves you me choice.

So in LotR when they say "we have to try AND save _____" they are duty bound and have no real choice in the matter.

This is how I hear it when I hear the two different combinations but I admit I'm no scholar.
Southern Illinois here, and that's pretty much the same usage we have in my neck of the woods. I won't try to/and guess whether it will match experiences in other parts of the world though.
I grew up in eastern PA. For me, "try and" is okay if you're speaking colloquially, but if I heard someone say it during a presentation or saw it in written communication, it would imply poor education. I was therefore really surprised to see it in Tolkien, who's notoriously fastidious.

My understanding is that the two are more interchangeable in British English, so there wouldn't necessarily be any implication for one choice over the other. I'd humbly suggest that we should be concerned not with what the phrasing implies wherever we ourselves are from but rather what Tolkien would have understood it to mean.

That said, I do find it interesting that there are some places where there is a genuine distinction between the two phrases rather than one being perceived as lazy or clumsy.


New Member
I agree completely. The only reason I brought it up is because both are used distinctly around here (honestly on a completely subconscious level).

During the class discussion is the first time I'd ever thought about it and "to try and" sounds more familiar to my ear. So I began to think about how they would both be used and came to my conclusion. From the examples of Tolkien's use (and full disclosure I did not look them all up) it seems to me he uses them in much the same way they are being used by old Kansas farmers, which would be to everyone's surprise and I'm sure Tolkien's utter delight.

I think Prof. Olsen was close to this thought when he said "to try and" places emphasis on the try. It seems to me that "to try and" signifies the lack of choice in trying no matter the outcome.