What are infinitives and does it matter if we split them?

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What are infinitives? The Copy Corner has the answer this week!

If you’ve ever learned another language or taken a grammar class, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of an infinitive.

An infinitive is the combination of the particle “to” and a verb, to make “to be,” “to read,” “to sleep.”

To Split or Not to Split

The infinitive has been the subject of a debate over splitting for years. For decades, teachers have taught that splitting an infinitive is a cardinal sin; however, some writers and editors have been simultaneously arguing for its acceptance. The general rule states that, “to sleep soundly,” is correct while the split infinitive, “to soundly sleep,” is incorrect.

Editor Norman Lewis stated, “I think the evidence is conclusive enough, it is perfectly correct to consciously split an infinitive whenever such an act increases the strength or clarity of your sentence.”

Many agree, but only conditionally, stating that as long as the split keeps the integrity of the infinitive, there is nothing wrong with splitting an infinitive in informal writing.

For example, some writers and editors may see both of the following examples as correct.

Technically incorrect: “to quickly read”

Technically correct: “to read quickly”

As with every English rule, there is generally some leeway, as long as you are consistent with splitting or not splitting.

This is a very “barebones” explanation of infinitives, but if you would like to learn more, feel free to check out OWL Purdue’s Infinitives page.

Come back next week to learn more about passive vs. active voice and check out last week’s post on prepositions.

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