Daily Dispatch

Get to the Point

To Infinitive and Beyond

By | Jun.30.16 | Communicating, Daily Dispatch, Get to the Point, Legal Writing

Get to the Point

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.

Theda “Teddy” Snyder mediates workers compensation cases throughout California. She is also available for legal freelance writing assignments. An attorney since 1977, she has practiced in a variety of settings and frequently speaks and writes about settlements and the business of law. She is a Fellow of the College of Law Practice Management and the author of four books published by the American Bar Association, including "Women Rainmakers' Best Marketing Tips, 3rd Edition." Based in Los Angeles, Teddy can be found at WCMediator.com and on Twitter @WCMediator.

Illustration ©iStockPhoto.com

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