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Man with index finger pointed up Get to the Point
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Get to the Point

To Infinitive and Beyond

By Theda C. Snyder

An infinitive is the barest form of a verb. Usually, we refer to a verb form as an infinitive when we use “to”: to go, to run, to think.

If you studied a foreign language, you probably learned the infinitive form of verbs and then how to conjugate them. In English, we don’t need the “to.” We can refer to a “bare infinitive” without the “to.” But some sentences do require infinitives. We commonly use an infinitive with another verb:

  • I want to go to the park.
  • He learned to knit in a class.

If you diagrammed these sentences all of the verb parts would stay together.

Try Again

And then there’s “try.”  What happened to “try”? Usually, except when you talk about trying on clothes or trying a lawsuit, “try” takes an infinitive. Instead of trying to do something, people these days seem to be continually doing two things. They “try and stay” for the whole performance instead of “try to stay” for it. A sentence diagram would show the noun (they) doing two things: that they would both try the performance, which makes no sense, and also stay for it.

The incorrect use of “and” instead of “to” with ”try” has permeated mainstream journalism as well as common usage. “And” can join two verbs; it is not a verb or even part of a verb.

“Attempt” is a synonym for “try.” Yet, no one seems to say they “attempt and get a good photo.” They say they attempt to get a good photo.

You wouldn’t say “I want and go to the park” or “he learned and knit in a class.” So why do people say they “try and do better the next time”? They aren’t “trying the next time.”

Please, the next time you try to do better, do it with the infinitive.

Illustration ©iStockPhoto.com

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Theda C. Snyder

Theda “Teddy” Snyder mediates civil disputes, workplace injury and workers’ compensation cases throughout California. Teddy has practiced in a variety of settings and frequently speaks and writes about settlements and the business of law. She was a Fellow of the College of Law Practice Management and is the author of four ABA books, including “Women Rainmakers’ Best Marketing Tips, 3rd Edition” as well as “Personal Injury Case Evaluation” available on Amazon.com. Based in Los Angeles, Teddy can be found at WCMediator.com and on Twitter @WCMediator.

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