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What is a split infinitive and is it grammatically correct? A guide with definitions and examples.
20/09/2011 03:33 robin.hubpages.com by Robin Grammar Mishaps: Split Infinitives rate or flag this pageTweet Definition Infinitive: an infinitive is the basic part of a verb, e.g., to dance, to sing, to play, to go. Split infinitive: a split infinitive occurs when an infinitive (to dance, to sing, to play, to go) is split in two by an adverb (a word that modifies the verb). For example: • to horribly sing • to aggressively play • to boldly go • (The infinitives are in bold and the adverbs are underlined.) What do the experts say? Original Star Trek Cast The American Heritage Book of English Usage: To Boldly Go Where No Man Has A Practical and Authoritative Guide to Contem- Gone Before porary English I received an email regarding split infinitives. Our Fifty percent of grammarians on the American He- fellow Hubber wrote: Will you write a Hub on split ritage panel believe that the split infinitive is okay, infinitives? «I think they’re okay; a friend of mine the other half do not. The majority do agree that insists they’re not. We decided to let you settle the more than one adverb in between an infinitive is score.» not advised. Here is their example, «We are seeking a plan to gradually, systematically, and economically What pressure! In this Hub, I’ll give you the basics; relieve the burden.» They do not like the use of this tell you what the experts say; give you my two cents; split infinitive. and then let you decide. The Columbia Guide to Standard American English One of the most famous split infinitives is the Star joliprint Trek saying, «To boldly go where no man has gone This organization advises a writer to be weary of before». First, let’s start off with a definition of split using split infinitives unless it decreases ambiguity. infinitive, then we’ll analyze the Star Trek statement They use the example of these three sentences: and see if it’s grammatically correct. Printed with http://robin.hubpages.com/hub/Grammar_Mishaps__To_Boldly_Go_Where_No_Man_Has_Gone_Before Page 1 20/09/2011 03:33 robin.hubpages.com Grammar Mishaps: Split Infinitives The driver is instructed periodically to check the • To gracefully dance is an art form. (An oil level awkward split infinitive sentence.) • To dance gracefully is an art form. (Gram- The driver is instructed to periodically check the matically correct and better sounding.) oil level. Last note: English grammar is incredibly dynamic. The driver is instructed to check the oil level pe- Grammarians disagree with one another on a consis- riodically. tent basis. This is evident when English usage panels are split on correct usages. In some of my hubs I have Do you know which sentence is the split infinitive? had comments disagreeing with my explanations or The second sentence is the split infinitive because usage. This is absolutely fine; I just love the dialogue. «periodically» is splitting the infinitive «to check». I’m sorry if I didn’t settle the disagreement in the Although, the second sentence is the split infinitive, it original email, but I hope I was able to shed a bit of is the most unambiguous; is the driver told to check light on the subject. (And educate a few of you on the oil periodically, or is he physically checking the what a split infinitive actually is.;)) Please feel free oil periodically. In this example, they believe the to use the comment box if you want to leave your split infinitive is the best choice. two cents. Ask Oxford-The Oxford Dictionary The Oxford Dictionary calls split infinitives a myth. They believe they are «poor style» but not gramma- tically incorrect. What I think... For many years grammarians have noted that split infinitives are incorrect. Their reasoning: in Latin an infinitive is one word, thus splitting it would be incorrect. However, although our language is based in Latin, it is not Latin, and in English an infinitive is two words. I think split infinitives are okay if used with caution. In the Star Trek statement, «To boldly go where no man has gone before,» the sentence would not have the same effect if it were worded differently. E.g., «To go boldly where no man has gone before,» or joliprint «To go where no man has gone before boldly». These last two sentences just don’t have the same effect. But beware: In some instances, the split infinitive Printed with makes a sentence sound awkward. http://robin.hubpages.com/hub/Grammar_Mishaps__To_Boldly_Go_Where_No_Man_Has_Gone_Before Page 2
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