Bryan Garner Responds

Recently, the firm collectively got into a disagreement over the use of "try to" versus "try and". The majority believed that "try and" was colloquial and "try to" considered the correct, predominant, and preferred form. While all agreed that they are equally used in speaking form – and are basically synonymous – the majority determiend that "try and" should not be used. And that is even though, according to alt.usage.english, "try and" is probably older than "try to".

Colleen Moore, one of our paralegals, decided to get Bryan A. Garner's opinion on the subject. Mr. Garner, an American lawyer, lexicographer, and teacher who has written several books about English usage and style, including Garner's Modern American Usage and Elements of Legal Style, and editor-in-chief of all current editions of Black's Law Dictionary, is a common resource for all of us at the law firm. However, that is typically done by reviewing on of his books or materials from one of his many speaking engagements and continuing education courses. Not finding a good enough answer in our law firm's library, the paralegal reached out to him directly.

Mr. Garner,

This grammar choice makes me crazy. Please tell my your thoughts on the below.

  • I am going to try and swim 20 laps.
  • I am going to try to swim 20 laps.

Now, my brain tells me that the second choice is correct because I am going to try to do something. I believe this is one of my biggest pet peeves. Please tell me which is correct in your opinion and why. Thank you.

Colleen Moore

She was not necessarily expecting a response.  However, 7 minutes later, but what should appear?

You've got the predominant form right. But "try and" is standard [British English]. BAG

Bryan A. Garner

LawProse, Inc.

Now that is pretty cool. And undoubtedly correct!