Split infinitives - should we or shouldn't we?

To boldly go or to go boldly? Should we or shouldn’t we split infinitives, does it really matter?

 

Split infinitives are close to my heart. For years, I had it drummed into me that splitting infinitives is wrong. Consequently, my writing is usually split infinitive free and I cannot help but see them everywhere I go. It wasn’t until I was trying to write a blog post about the power of networking and writing to learn quickly that I stopped and decided to write (or rant) about split infinitives instead.

 

So, what is a split infinitive? I guess to explain it, we need to understand what an infinitive is. An infinitive is the basic form of a verb that normally follows to; so, in the famous example above, to boldly go, go is the infinitive. A split infinitive occurs when an adverb is positioned in between the verb and to‘ (e.g. boldly).  

 

A bit of research and I have discovered that this a hot topic – a lot of people are wondering what split infinitives are and whether they should be avoiding them. The opposition is considered often to be linked to the structure of Latin and the idea that as infinitives cannot be split in Latin, they shouldn’t be split in English either. It is under debate however, and other theories are mentioned in the literature (For example, see Perales-Escudero, 2011 for a review).

 

Regardless of the reason behind the rule, the consensus seems to be that nowadays it is OK, and it is only the real sticklers that refuse to acknowledge their place in writing.  As for me, I am not sure I will ever be able to split infinitives without pondering it first. They make me cringe, but I am starting to see the benefit of allowing them to sneak in occassionally…

 

References

Perales-Escudero, M. (2011) To split or to not split: the split infinitive past and present. Journal of English Linguistics 39(4): 313-334

 

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