split infinitive


Also found in: Thesaurus, Wikipedia.
Related to split infinitive: conjunction

split infinitive

n.
An infinitive verb form with an element, usually an adverb, interposed between to and the verb form, as in to boldly go.
Usage Note: The split infinitive has been present in English ever since the 1300s, but it was not until the 1800s that grammarians labeled and condemned the usage. The only rationale for condemning the construction is based on a false analogy with Latin. The thinking is that because the Latin infinitive is a single word, the equivalent English construction should be treated as if it were a single unit. But English is not Latin, and distinguished writers have split infinitives without giving it a thought. Noteworthy splitters include John Donne, Daniel Defoe, George Eliot, Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, William Wordsworth, and Willa Cather. Still, those who dislike the construction can usually avoid it without difficulty. The sense of the sentence To better understand the miners' plight, he went to live in their district is just as easily expressed by To understand the miners' plight better, he went to live in their district. However, one must take care not to ruin the rhythm of the sentence or create an unintended meaning by displacing an adverb. In general, the Usage Panel accepts the split infinitive. In our 2005 survey, 70 percent accepted the sentence The move allowed the company to legally pay the employees severance payments (acceptable to only 50 percent in 1988), and 91 percent accepted We expect our output to more than double this year. When the split in the infinitive gets wider, acceptance is more grudging. In 2005, 58 percent accepted We are seeking a plan to gradually, systematically, and economically relieve the burden. Back in 1988, only 23 percent accepted the same sentence. · Infinitive phrases in which the adverb precedes a participle, such as to be rapidly rising, to be clearly understood, and to have been ruefully mistaken, are not split and should be acceptable to everybody. By the same token, there are no grounds for objecting to the position of the adverb in the sentence He is committed to laboriously assembling all of the facts of the case. What is "split" here is not an infinitive but a prepositional phrase.

split infinitive

n
(Grammar) (in English grammar) an infinitive used with another word between to (the infinitive marker) and the verb itself, as in I want to really finish it this time
Usage: The traditional rule against placing an adverb between to and its verb – 'splitting the infinitive' – is gradually disappearing. Although it is true that a split infinitive may result in a clumsy sentence (he decided to firmly and definitively deal with the problem), this is not enough to justify the absolute condemnation that this practice has attracted. Indeed, very often the most natural position of the adverb is between to and the verb (he decided to really try next time) and to change it would result in an artificial and awkward construction (he decided really to try next time). The current view is therefore that the split infinitive is not a grammatical error. Nevertheless, many writers prefer to avoid splitting infinitives in formal written English, since readers with a more traditional point of view are likely to interpret this type of construction as incorrect

split′ infin′itive


n.
an expression in which there is a word or phrase, usu. an adverb or adverbial phrase, between to and its accompanying verb form in an infinitive, as in to readily understand.
[1895–1900]
usage: The traditional rule against the split infinitive is based on an analogy with Latin, in which infinitives are only one word and hence cannot be “split.” In the past, Latin style was the model for good writing in English; criticism of the split infinitive was especially strong in 19th-century usage guides. In many sentences, however, the only natural place for an adverb or other word is between to and the verb: To actually see the organisms you must use a microscope. Many modern speakers and writers depend on their ear for a natural sentence rather than on an arbitrary rule. Those who ordinarily prefer not to split an infinitive will occasionally do so to avoid awkward or stilted language.
ThesaurusAntonymsRelated WordsSynonymsLegend:
Noun1.split infinitive - an infinitive with an adverb between `to' and the verb (e.g., `to boldly go')
infinitive - the uninflected form of the verb
References in periodicals archive ?
Fix the split infinitive, use a gender-neutral noun and the job is done.
Trying to figure out the difference between a split infinitive and a dangling participle.
The English-speaking world may be divided into (1) those who neither know nor care what a split infinitive is; (2) those who do not know, but care very much; (3) those who know and condemn; (4) those who know and approve; and (5) those who know and distinguish.
Nothing untenable, though--just the occasional omitted comma and split infinitive.
The second thing in this instance is the split infinitive ('to successfully climb').
Take care to avoid the split infinitive," said Gwyn, reminding me that it's grammatically better to go boldly, rather than to boldly go.
When the narrator corrects a split infinitive, "to boldly go" acts as a reproach for his ineptitude and his unrequited desire; in addition, it also alludes to that "final frontier," the longed for loss of virginity and sexual fulfillment.
The English-speaking world may be divided into (1) those who neither know nor care what a split infinitive is; (2) those who do not know, but care very much; (3) those who know & condemn; (4) those who know & approve; & (5) those who know and distinguish.
It's also the world's best-known example of a split infinitive - to be grammatically correct it should say "to go boldly".
Paul McDermott emailed to say "I have always found the ECHO head and shoulders better than any of the national dailies for spelling, grammar, lucidity and accurate, unbiased reporting" before slapping our wrists over the occasional split infinitive, e.
In a career spanning more than four decades, Ennor was never once guilty of using a split infinitive, a fact he put down to what he called a "classical education" at Malvern, where he was despatched at the age of 13.