Split Infinitives - Are They Okay?
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|Grammar & Punctuation||Grammar|
Let's start with what an infinitive is. There are two kinds. Bare infinitives are the one-word
verbs you use every day...
...like “shower”, “shave”, and “kill”.
Full infinitives carry a “to” in front of the verb, so you end up with “to shower”,
“to shave”, and “to kill”.
Splitting an infinitive, then, is what happens when you add a word between “to” and the
bare verb attached to it. Grammarians of the nineteenth century would
have destroyed anyone they caught splitting infinitives.
However, those guys are now ghosts... ...and pretty much everyone today agrees that
splitting infinitives is kosher. Let's look at a couple of examples. You could
say, “Norman worked to carefully conceal Marion's body”...
...meaning Norman hid the girl's corpse where no one was ever going to find it.
But what if you didn't split the infinitive in this example?
What if you said instead, “Norman worked carefully to conceal Marion's body”?
The sentence would have a completely different meaning. “Carefully” would be referring
to how Norman worked...
...rather than to how he concealed. Okay, another example. You could say, “Norman
decided to artfully dress as his dead mother.”
If you don't split the infinitive...
...and say instead that “Norman decided artfully to dress as his dead mother”...
...the result is a sentence that doesn't make sense.
There may come a day when you doubt the correctness of splitting infinitives. If so, just remember
...the catch phrase for “Star Trek” is “to boldly go where no man has gone before.”
If Gene Roddenberry was allowed to split infinitives, then you get a pass, too.