Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"
Aubrey Carter
"3 Keys IELTS Certified Coach"

English grammar can be tricky!

You need to know when and how to break the rules.

Today you’ll learn when it’s better to use “try to” and when you should say “try and”?

Listen in to today’s episode and learn which one implies assurance.

This way, you can use this subtle grammar to connect with friends and co-workers in English.

“Try to” versus “try and”

Aubrey shares an example with ‘try and’ right away.

She says she will try and get all her tasks done today so she can go to the lake tomorrow with her family.

Lindsay says that she is also trying to get some things done.

Aubrey points out how they use the terms “try to” and “try and.”

Today’s episode was inspired by a question sent by a listener regarding these two phrasal verbs.

Lindsay and Aubrey will share how and when to use each one.

Here is the question from the listener:

First, I want to thank you, girls, for being such fabulous hosts. I recently found out about your podcast thank to a “best English podcast” search on Google. I am so thankful for having the chance to listen to you guys. I just love your approach since it’s not only based on linguistic features but also on cultural awareness. You’re super joyful, enthusiastic, and, energetic. This definitely makes our day worthwhile. As for my question, I’d like to know whether there’s a difference in meaning between these two structures. “Try to find another resource.” “Try and find another resource.” I noticed native English speakers use both structures. Is there any difference whatsoever? Thanks a million.

What is the difference?

Aubrey and Lindsay notice that the listener who sent the question has very high-level English skills.

It is impressive that she notices that native speakers use both statements.

Aubrey then mentions that “try to” is much more formal than “try and.”

“Try and” is a colloquialism, which is something used for informal speech.

Colloquialisms should not be used for formal writing because they’re informal and the grammar is often not correct.

‘Try and’ is recommended in informal conversations because it has a more positive connotation.

It has a more subtle and friendly approach.

It can also give you more assurance.

Meanwhile, “try to” has a neutral or negative connotation, especially if you’re talking about ability.

Lindsay points out that one preposition change can make a big difference in the tone of your statement.

Aubrey shares that this is one good example where English speakers intentionally use incorrect grammar to be more informal and friendly.

Here are some examples:

Scenario: You are coaching your friend playing volleyball.

  • “Try to serve the ball over the net.”
  • “Try and serve the ball over the net.”

The latter sound more friendly and supportive of the person who can’t serve the ball well.

It also gives assurance that you are encouraging them during the game.

It is a subtle but important difference.

Scenario: You are in a business meeting.

  • “Can you try to clarify what you mean by that?”
  • “Can you try and clarify what you mean by that?”

It sounds a bit confrontational when you use “try to” when asking for clarifications from your work colleague.

It implies that they might not be able to do it.

It is better to use “try and.”

Scenario: Asking a colleague to open a jar for you.

  • “Can you try to open this?”
  • “Can you try and open this?”

This is another very subtle example.

Because you are asking for help in this scenario, it would be best to use “try and.”

This way, it doesn’t sound like you are questioning the ability of the person who will be helping you.

Scenario: Asking for help from IT staff at work.

  • “Can you try to fix my computer?”
  • “Can you try and fix my computer?”

As mentioned, “try to” has more relation to the ability of a person.

It sounds weird to use “try to” when asking for help from someone who specializes in fixing your problem.

When using ”try and” you are indirectly asking them to help you, and you know they are competent with what they do.

It is more polite, which is important because you are asking for a favor.

Grammar conflict in “try and”

Aubrey shared early in the episode that “try and” is grammatically incorrect.

Native English speakers use it all the time.

“Try to” is the grammatically correct phrase and this is what you should use when writing.

For example, it is better to say “He tries to imagine his future,” because it would be incorrect to say “He tries and imagines his future.”

“Try and” in the sentence is incorrect because there are two finite verbs being used

  • to try
  • to imagine

It is not correct to use two verbs in a sentence that basically serve the same purpose.

This is very complicated grammar but it’s good that Aubrey has shared why “try and” is incorrect.

Aubrey shares a trick on how you know what to use.

You can break out the sentence and see if it makes sense.

Using the example mentioned earlier, if we switch it to “He tries and imagines his future”, it sounds like he is doing two actions – trying and imagining.

If you break it into two sentences, it looks like this:

  • “He is trying his future.”
  • “He is imagining his future.”

That doesn’t sound right and doesn’t make sense.

Lindsay and Aubrey don’t recommend you use this in writing, but you can definitely use it when speaking.

Take note of the subtle difference and recognize when it would be preferable to say “try and.”

Roleplay

Here is a quick roleplay from Lindsay and Aubrey that will help clarify how and when to use “try to” and “try and.”

The scenario is Lindsay and Aubrey just met at a business conference.

  • Aubrey: Anything you’re going to try and see while you’re in town?
  • Lindsay: Oh yeah! I heard there was a Natural History Museum. So I’m definitely going to try and check that out.
  • Aubrey: Oh fun! I’m going to try and visit the Botanical Gardens.
  • Lindsay: I wish I had more time to try and do everything.

Takeaway

The English language is very diverse and it can be tricky sometimes.

You just have to keep consuming English resources and practice so you can improve your communication skills.

Lindsay and Aubrey have shared good tips in today’s episode.

Don’t be intimidated by English grammar.

Be aware of these subtleties in order to bring your English level closer to your goal.

Can you share examples of how you can use “try to” and “try and”?

Share it in the comments below.

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