Another Grammar Question: "Try and" vs "Try to"

Which of the following is correct:

“I’m going to try and find her.”

“I’m going to try to find her.”

It seems clear to me that the second option is correct. If you have one infinitive verb modifying a second verb, that verb must also be in the infinitive, right? If you say “try and find her”, the “and” automatically separates the two verbs – makes it sound like you’re going to try to find her, and you’re also going to definitely find her – no doubt about it. Which would be fine if that’s what you mean to say, but most of the time you can tell by the context that that’s not what’s meant at all – people intend to leave some doubt about whatever action they’re “trying.”

I was pretty sure of that rule, but you see “try and” all over the place. I’ve seen it in major newspapers, in books, in magazines, etc. So now I’m just confused. Is “try and” correct??

I think your sense of it is correct. “Try and…” is sensible when you mean to imply that all that is required to manage something is the application of a little effort.

“Try and pull yourself together, man.” Fine.

“I’m going to try to reach the summit of Mount Everest.” Correct.

“Let’s try and golf a perfect game.” Bzzzzt.

“Try and find her” would be fine if you’re talking about a game of hide-and-seek with a six-year-old in a three-room apartment.

“Try to find her” is preferable if you’re talking about a resourceful criminal with a history of identity theft who’s gone to ground somewhere in the continental United States.

This begs the question: why do people commonly use constructions in manifestly incorrect ways, even in popular media? :wink:

Try and understand, “try and” is a popular colloquialism, and it rolls off the tongue nicely. Grammar was made for Man, not Man for grammar. :slight_smile:

Excellent examples, Larry. I think you’re right on track.

Malacandra – I don’t mind it as much in spoken English – what does bother me is reading it in the New York Times (supposedly the gold standard! when I saw it in there, that’s when I began to doubt my understanding of the rule) and some of the most popular books of all time (the Harry Potter books do it all the time).

/me slaps Larry Mudd :wink:

That must be the American edition then, because I could not find the phrase in the original text.
As a side note, when I learned that there was such a thing as an American edition of Harry Potter, I found that very funny.

I can’t say definitively, but I think it’s both versions. I was working in the UK when the 5th book came out, and I’m pretty sure it was in the British version as well.

Incidentally, the changes in the American edition were slight, but necessary. Most Americans wouldn’t have any difficulty with things like biscuit-for-cookie and lorry-for-truck, but I was completely baffled when everyone started saying “Wotcher” to each other. I had never come across that word before, even after having lived in the UK for a while, and I thought it was a rather cryptic word meaning to watch your back, or something like that. I was a bit disappointed when I learned that it’s just slang for “hi.”