For the background to my writing challenge, please read my first blog by clicking the following link – http://wp.me/p1x6Ui-4. If you would prefer to dive straight into note 25, then please read on…
To recap on yesterday’s blog, ‘Note 24 – The infinitive of verbs’, I explained that the infinitive is not only written as two words ‘to’ plus the ‘verb stem’ e.g. I love to laugh, but can also be written without the word ‘to’ e.g I must laugh. Today I’m going to blog about split infinitives where one word comes between the ‘to’ and the ‘verb stem’ e.g. to really laugh.
According to John Seely in the Oxford A-Z of Grammar & Punctuation, “there is no grammatical justification for this so-called rule and people have been splitting infinitives for centuries”.
Please consider the following where (a) shows a split infinitive in every example and (b) doesn’t:
1a. To really laugh every day
1b. To laugh really every day
2a. To loudly sing the nursery rhyme
2b. To sing loudly the nursery rhyme
3a. To carefully dance the waltz
3b. To dance carefully the waltz
4a. To neatly write the text
4b. To write neatly the text
My opinion: For each example above, the sentence reads better with the split infinitive.
Why teachers and traditionalists think split infinitives are bad grammar
Although there are occassions in English where the writer chooses to split the infinitive, it is not accepted by some teachers. The main reason for this is because the English language is alone in splitting infinitives. In The Pocket Writer’s Handbook, Martin Mander & Stephen Curtis explain that “in Latin and modern european languages the infinitive is respresented by a single word”. The example they give is ‘canere’ which is the Latin verb for ‘to sing’. It is therefore impossible to split the infinitive in Latin.
My thoughts: I understand a lot more about how infinitives and split infinitives work now and will probably use split infinitives with caution (not too often and only when it makes sense to do so). Being so aware of them, I found myself using them when speaking today and instantly picked myself up on it.
I have to sign off now to prepare myself for my ‘train the trainer’ course assessment which I have in the morning.
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John Seely The Oxford A-Z of Grammar & Punctuation, USA
The Pocket Writer’s Handbook by Martin Mander & Stephen Curtis Mander and Curtis (Penguin Reference Library)