Definition of split infinitive in English:

split infinitive

noun

  • A construction consisting of an infinitive with an adverb or other word inserted between to and the verb, e.g. she seems to really like it.

    • ‘The British tend to be severe about split infinitives.’
    • ‘After all, the real social problems are feral youths and binge drinkers and people who split infinitives.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘We do not frown on sentences that begin with ‘And’ or ‘But’; we will split no hairs over split infinitives; and we frequently switch from first to third person and from past tense to present in the same paragraph.’
    • ‘The only possible flaw that he ever revealed, and for which he was teased, was a propensity to split infinitives.’
    • ‘In an effort to drag this blog back towards more decorous things, where do you stand on split infinitives?’
    • ‘This goes as much for an awkward split infinitive as it does for an adverb placed oddly in order to preserve the integrity of the infinitive.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘It's not the split infinitive that's at issue here.’
    • ‘Spelling only matters in Scrabble and to retired civil servants who write dull letters in green ink and teach their budgerigars not to split infinitives.’
    • ‘‘He told me there was a split infinitive on page 23,’ recalls Lee, who immediately corrected the error at a cost of $9,000.’
    • ‘And since that was a split infinitive, it seems I've forgotten completely how to write as well.’
    • ‘If they believe infinitives shouldn't be split, it won't matter if you can show that every user of English on the planet has used split infinitives, they'll still say that nonetheless it's just wrong.’
    • ‘You cannot split infinitives in Latin because they are single words.’
    • ‘For example, I have been trying for a decade or three to explain to the copy editors on newspapers that it is lower than barbarism to split infinitives.’
    • ‘It's OK, she says, to violate the elementary-school prohibition against split infinitives.’
    • ‘There is a pedant on your staff who spends far too much of his time searching for split infinitives.’
    • ‘The consensus in the 20th century… seems to be that awkward avoidance of the split infinitive has produced more bad writing than use of it.’
    • ‘I do not think you will find any split infinitives.’
    • ‘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.’

Usage

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

Pronunciation

split infinitive

/split inˈfinədiv//splɪt ɪnˈfɪnədɪv/