split infinitive

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Related to Not to: not to mention

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 classic literature ?
at my time of life I ought not to be appearing before you, O men of Athens, in the character of a juvenile orator--let no one expect it of me.
SOCRATES: Why, Crito, when a man has reached my age he ought not to be repining at the approach of death.
Allen were not to be superseded; but on some other day he trusted, when longer notice could be given, they would not refuse to spare her to her friend.
The worst of lewd literature is that it seems to give a sanction to lewdness in the life, and that inexperience takes this effect for reality: that is the danger and the harm, and I think the fact ought not to be blinked.
Even this profession if undetected has advantages, though they are not to be compared with those of which I was just now speaking.
The term 'slave,' if defined as related, not to a master, but to a man, or a biped, or anything of that sort, is not reciprocally connected with that in relation to which it is defined, for the statement is not exact.
A prince does not spend much on colonies, for with little or no expense he can send them out and keep them there, and he offends a minority only of the citizens from whom he takes lands and houses to give them to the new inhabitants; and those whom he offends, remaining poor and scattered, are never able to injure him; whilst the rest being uninjured are easily kept quiet, and at the same time are anxious not to err for fear it should happen to them as it has to those who have been despoiled.
Let us take first the virtue of a man--he should know how to administer the state, and in the administration of it to benefit his friends and harm his enemies; and he must also be careful not to suffer harm himself.
It is not a man's duty, as a matter of course, to devote himself to the eradication of any, even to most enormous, wrong; he may still properly have other concerns to engage him; but it is his duty, at least, to wash his hands of it, and, if he gives it no thought longer, not to give it practically his support.
His mother is perfectly right not to be in a hurry.
Do not be afraid of my wanting the character," cried Julia, with angry quickness: "I am not to be Agatha, and I am sure I will do nothing else; and as to Amelia, it is of all parts in the world the most disgusting to me.
He is not to be apprehended by reason, but by life," said the Mason.