split infinitive

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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 ?
If he had, there would be no fewer than four split infinitives."
We are too busy relishing the argument, on everything from split infinitives to Oxford commas, to ever get around (whoops) to enshrining "good" usage in law.
That's one reason The Elements of Style is criticized in some places, though the critics tend to get hung up on little things--the ban on split infinitives, say--and to miss the larger point.
SO should there be a Pedants' Revolt in response to the shocking revelation this week that split infinitives are becoming the norm?
Her interventions ranged from major theoretical projects such as the conceptualisation and commissioning of the Kilburn Manifesto to extremely detailed points about split infinitives or the mysteries of punctuation.
They whip out their Sharpies and take away and add apostrophes from public signs, shake their heads at prepositions which end sentences and mutter at split infinitives and misspellings, but do they bubble and froth and slobber and cream with joy at language?
Split Infinitives. 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.
I awake to BBC Radio Four's Today programme picking up Evan Davies's infuriating split infinitives; 18 hours later I nod off, teeth clenched, complaining that grammar is a lost art among the Today In Parliament crew.
It is true that the book has its share of anachronisms, (1) split infinitives, and colloquialisms, as well as the very occasional orthographical error; but these are comparatively insignificant blemishes.
- and cast Romney as the shaky debater daunted by a rival's greatness and likely to tumble into a dark sea of split infinitives and weird rich-guy remarks.
In the far-off days when grammar was taught as if it were a dead language, like Latin, a prescriptive view of grammar promoted fixed rules: don't split infinitives, dangle participles or start sentences with 'and'.