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Pedants' corner

so, explain split infinitives to me

10 replies

choufleur · 01/03/2009 21:04

I was never taught this at school and don't have a clue what split infinitives are.


OP posts:
Lindenlass · 01/03/2009 21:06

'To boldy go' is a split infinitive. ie. 'to go' is the infinitive and you split it with boldy'. It used not to be the 'done thing' but I think it's considered to be acceptable nowadays (but prob not by true pedants )

Lindenlass · 01/03/2009 21:06

FFS! . Those 'boldy's were meant to read 'boldly'! Sorry.

giddykipper · 01/03/2009 21:07

'To go' is an infinitive.

If you split the infinitive you put something between the 'to' and the verb.

Hence 'to boldly go' is splitting the infinitive.

giddykipper · 01/03/2009 21:07
Hassled · 01/03/2009 21:08

An infinitive is the verb before you do anything with it. So "to jump" is the infinitive of the verb jump - and then obviously it can change to jumps, jumped, jumping etc. An infinitive always starts with "to".

If you split the infinitive, you put another word between the "to" and the "jump" - eg to quickly jump. Most famous example is "To boldly go".

I think most people have stopped caring about split infinitives though .

WhatFreshHellIsThis · 01/03/2009 21:10

I haven't stopped caring! they make my teeth itch.

choufleur · 01/03/2009 21:13

So to stop itchy teeth I should say "to jump quickly".

Quite simple when it's explained. Why didn't someone just tell me that at school?

OP posts:
Bink · 01/03/2009 21:14

All depends how & where they're used. Fine where they're used conscious of the grammatical taboo & because it's better for the sense/effect/whatever; not fine, like anything else, when it's part of a whole stream of clunky ugly uncaring writing.

bran · 01/03/2009 21:16

Opinion is divided on whether it's ok to split an infinitive or not. According to something I read ages ago the reason some people though you shouldn't split them was because in Latin the infinitive is one word and therefore can't be split. I've forgotten now why it was felt that meant that the English infinitive shouldn't be split. English is more closely related to German anyway, which also has a single word infinitive. Perhaps having a German royal family influenced the upper classes to adopt a more Germanic sentence structure, hence not splitting infinitives.

Personally I think it usually sounds better to split it than to not. "To boldly go" sounds much less clunky than "Boldly to go" or "To go boldly".

Habbibu · 02/03/2009 14:26

The split infinitive hasn't ever been the most common form in English - it was around in the middle ages, but never as frequently as "unsplit" variations. Adverbs such as boldly are mobile, and there can be very subtle shifts in meaning if you put it before, after, and in the middle of the infinitive - these can be quite useful, and this level of subtlety is one of the joys of English.

There's no grammatical or communicative ambiguity with split infinitives, so it's a matter of style, not grammar. I use them a lot!

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