One split infinitive, one whack; two split infinitives, two whacks; and so on.. The construction still renders disagreement, but modern English usage guides have dropped the objection to it. It comes out of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century prescriptivism. In the English language, a split infinitive or cleft infinitive is a grammatical construction in which a word or phrase is placed between the particle to and the infinitive that comprise a to-infinitive. (It was a big deal for a long time.) " Fowler (Gowers' revised second edition, 1965) offers the following example of the consequences of refusal to split infinitives: "The greatest difficulty about assessing the economic achievements of the Soviet Union is that its spokesmen try absurdly to exaggerate them; in consequence the visitor may tend badly to underrate them" (italics added). John Donne used them several times, though, and Samuel Pepys also used at least one. Define split infinitives. The thing is, they can actually be useful in avoiding semantic confusion. In the "argument from classical languages" section, the article says, "In Greek and Latin, it is impossible to split infinitives because these languages never use their infinitives together with a preposition." In large parts of the school system, the construction was opposed with ruthless vigour.  Very frequently, this is an emphatic adverb, for example: Sometimes it is a negation, as in the self-referential joke: However, in modern colloquial English, almost any adverb may be found in this syntactic position, especially when the adverb and the verb form a close syntactic unit (really-pull, not-split). However, in Latin, the infinitive is one word, whereas in English, it has a particle and a verb (to + split), which can easily and meaningfully be split. Although it is difficult to say why the construction developed in Middle English, or why it revived so powerfully in Modern English, a number of theories have been postulated. But in 1812 Byron penned, “to slowly trace the forest’s shady scene,” and in 1895 Hardy wrote, “She wants to honestly and legally marry that man.”Barriers began to crumble.What’s the Rule?So what, then, is the current state of the “rule”?We can profit from the views of R.W. A correspondent to the BBC on a programme about English grammar in 1983 remarked: One reason why the older generation feel so strongly about English grammar is that we were severely punished if we didn't obey the rules! usage: The traditional rule against the split infinitive is based on an analogy with Latin, in which infinitives are only one word and hence cannot be “split.” In the past, Latin style was the model for good writing in English; criticism of the split infinitive was especially strong in … The problem with this theory is that there’s no evidence to support it. , Post-1960 authorities show a strong tendency to accept the split infinitive. A split infinitive means that there is a word or words between the word “to” and the verb in the base (infinitive) form of the verb. Because the prohibition has become so widely known, the Columbia Guide recommends that writers "follow the conservative path [of avoiding split infinitives when they are not necessary], especially when you're uncertain of your readers' expectations and sensitivities in this matter". Since it wasn’t possible to split infinitives in Latin, some people argued, it shouldn’t be permitted in English. French, Spanish, and Latin infinitives cannot be split because they are expressed by one word. Previous: Infinitives Showing Tense and Voice. With a slight change in meaning: she could have a teddy bear collection without having collected it herself, e.g., if she bought it in its entirety. Here’s the thing: infinitives in Latin are just one word. , Others followed, among them Bache, 1869 ("The to of the infinitive mood is inseparable from the verb"); William B. Hodgson, 1889; and Raub, 1897 ("The sign to must not be separated from the remaining part of the infinitive by an intervening word").. Perhaps no “rule” of grammar sparks more controversy than the “rule” against splitting infinitives. As one who used "infinitive" to mean the single-word verb, Otto Jespersen challenged the epithet: "'To' is no more an essential part of an infinitive than the definite article is an essential part of a nominative, and no one would think of calling 'the good man' a split nominative. Another early prohibition came from an anonymous American in 1834:, The practice of separating the prefix of the infinitive mode from the verb, by the intervention of an adverb, is not unfrequent among uneducated persons … I am not conscious, that any rule has been heretofore given in relation to this point … The practice, however, of not separating the particle from its verb, is so general and uniform among good authors, and the exceptions are so rare, that the rule which I am about to propose will, I believe, prove to be as accurate as most rules, and may be found beneficial to inexperienced writers. split infinitive (plural split infinitives) (grammar) An infinitive with one or more modifiers inserted between the to and the verb. Previous: Infinitives Showing Tense and Voice Next: Verb Function 3 - Present-Participial Phrase, -ing Phrase. 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