split infinitive

noun

Definition of split infinitive

: an infinitive with to having a modifier between the to and the verbal (as in "to really start")

What is a split infinitive?: Usage Guide

The split infinitive was discovered and named in the 19th century. 19th century writers seem to have made greater use of this construction than earlier writers; the frequency of occurrence attracted the disapproving attention of grammarians, many of whom thought it to be a modern corruption. The construction had in fact been in occasional use since the 14th century; only its frequency had changed. Even though there has never been a rational basis for objecting to the split infinitive, the subject has become a fixture of folk belief about grammar. You can hardly publish a sentence containing one without hearing about it from somebody. Modern commentators know the split infinitive is not a vice, but they are loath to drop such a popular subject. They usually say it's all right to split an infinitive in the interest of clarity. Since clarity is the usual reason for splitting, this advice means merely that you can split them whenever you need to.

Examples of split infinitive in a Sentence

“To really start” is an example of a split infinitive.
Recent Examples on the Web The next year, President Kennedy made a resonant decision: to boldly go, as the Star Trek prologue was to put it in a ringing split infinitive, where no man had gone before. Anthony Haden-guest, Harper's Magazine, 26 Oct. 2021 The app and browser extension works across programs and platforms, pointing out your split infinitives in emails, word processors, websites, or on social media. Kim Komando, USA TODAY, 10 Apr. 2020 Of course, split infinitives, dangling modifiers, and subject-verb disagreements have always appeared wherever words are uttered or keys are stroked. Jake Cline, The Atlantic, 10 Aug. 2019 For the prigs, the mania for FAANG stocks is as abhorrent as a split infinitive. The Economist, 23 June 2018 Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Matthew Arnold, Anthony Trollope, Mark Twain, George Eliot, Henry James, Thomas Hardy, Theodore Roosevelt and Rudyard Kipling all split infinitives. The Economist, 26 Apr. 2018 The app and browser extension works across programs and platforms, pointing out your split infinitives in email, word processors, websites or on social media. Kim Komando, USA TODAY, 16 Feb. 2018 Sime wielded a thick black pencil that split infinitives, popularized inventive adjectives and nouns (hoofer, chantoosies, warblers, kidvid, boffo) and turned other nouns into verbs (authored, readied, helmed). Sam Roberts, New York Times, 31 Aug. 2017 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'split infinitive.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of split infinitive

1890, in the meaning defined above

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Time Traveler for split infinitive

Time Traveler

The first known use of split infinitive was in 1890

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Dictionary Entries Near split infinitive

split hand

split infinitive

split joint

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Statistics for split infinitive

Cite this Entry

“Split infinitive.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/split%20infinitive. Accessed 20 May. 2022.

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