Definition of split infinitive in English:
- You may deny that you use some variant - possessive antecedents for pronouns, split infinitives, stranded prepositions, certain types of ‘dangling modifiers’ - when in fact you use it with some frequency.
- But the fact is that every decent guide to grammar and usage on the market agrees that the split infinitive is grammatical and often preferably to all other alternatives.
- Far from being ungrammatical, split infinitives are (as we have explained before on Language Log) always an option for modifiers of infinitival clauses, and sometimes the only option.
Is it wrong to use a split infinitive, separating the infinitive marker to from the verb? If so, then these statements are grammatically incorrect: you have to really watch him; to boldly go where no one has gone before. Writers who long ago insisted that English could be modeled on Latin created the “rule” that the English infinitive must not be split: to clearly state violates this rule; one must say to state clearly. But the Latin infinitive is one word (e.g., amare, ‘to love’) and cannot be split, so the rule is not firmly grounded, and treating two English words as one can lead to awkward, stilted sentences. In particular, the placing of an adverb in English is extremely important in giving the appropriate emphasis. Consider, for example, the “corrected” forms of the previous examples: you really have to watch him; to go boldly where no one has gone before. The original, intended emphasis of each statement has been changed, and for no other reason than to satisfy an essentially unreasonable rule. Some traditionalists may continue to hold up the split infinitive as an error, but in standard English, the principle of allowing split infinitives is broadly accepted as both normal and useful.
- British & World English dictionary
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