Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: Split Infinitives (1).

Split Infinitives (1). Today: Generally. H.W. Fowler divided the English-speaking world into five classes: (1) those who neither know nor care what a split infinitive is; (2) those who do not know, but care very much; (3) those who know and condemn; (4) those who know and approve; and (5) those who know and distinguish (Modern English Usage 1st ed. at 558). It is this last class to which, if we have a good ear, we should aspire. An infinitive is the tenseless form of a verb preceded by "to," such as "to dismiss" or "to modify." Splitting the infinitive is placing one or more words between "to" and the verb, such as "to summarily dismiss" or "to unwisely modify." For the infinitive to be truly split, the intervening word or words must follow "to" directly {to satisfactorily have finished}. E.g.: "Supporters of defense projects and opponents of how the president used his new line-item veto power joined forces yesterday to decisively reject President Clinton’s line-item veto of military construction programs." "Congress Votes to Undo Clinton Veto," San Diego Union-Trib., 9 Nov. 1997, at A7. If the adverb follows any other part of the infinitive, there's no split {to have satisfactorily finished}. Although few armchair grammarians seem to know it, some split infinitives are regarded as perfectly proper: o "The evidence in favor of the judiciously split infinitive is sufficiently clear to make it obvious that teachers who condemn it arbitrarily are wasting their time and that of their pupils." Sterling A. Leonard, Current English Usage 124 (1932). o "The split infinitive is in full accord with the spirit of modern English and is now widely used by our best writers." George O. Curme, English Grammar § 70.B, at 148 (1947). o "To deliberately split an infinitive, puristic teaching to the contrary notwithstanding, is correct and acceptable English." Norman Lewis, Better English 287 (rev. ed. 1961). o "Splitting an infinitive is preferable both to jamming an adverb between two verbs, where everyone must puzzle out which verb it modifies ('They refused boldly to go so far away'), and to 'correcting' a split in a way that gives an artificial result ('They wanted to shorten greatly the length of the trip'). Sometimes those are the only choices we have, except for rewriting the sentence, and my point is that we needn't rewrite." Barbara Wallraff, Word Court 99 (2000). Language-Change Index — split infinitives where they feel natural: Stage 5. Next: Splits to Be Avoided. ——————– Quotation of the Day: "A split infinitive will sometimes give a meaning that is destroyed if the intruding word is moved." R.G. Ralph, Put It Plainly 41 (1952).
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