split infinitive


Definition of split infinitive

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

Keep scrolling for more

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 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, "7 incredibly useful sites you might not know about to get things done during pandemic," 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, "How Using Social Media Makes People Better Writers," 10 Aug. 2019 For the prigs, the mania for FAANG stocks is as abhorrent as a split infinitive. The Economist, "Most stockmarket returns come from a tiny fraction of shares," 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, "The ban on split infinitives is an idea whose time never came," 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, "10 incredibly useful online sites you didn't know about," 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, "Syd Silverman, 85, Who Kept Variety Boffo for 30 Years, Is Dead," 31 Aug. 2017

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.

See More

First Known Use of split infinitive

1890, in the meaning defined above

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about split infinitive

Time Traveler for split infinitive

Time Traveler

The first known use of split infinitive was in 1890

See more words from the same year

Statistics for split infinitive

Cite this Entry

“Split infinitive.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/split%20infinitive. Accessed 9 May. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for split infinitive

split infinitive


English Language Learners Definition of split infinitive

grammar : an English phrase in which an adverb or other word is placed between to and a verb

Comments on split infinitive

What made you want to look up split infinitive? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


Test Your Vocabulary

Star Wars Words Quiz

  • cu jedi training
  • The bounty portion of bounty hunters (such as Boba Fett) comes from a Latin word meaning
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.


Anagram puzzles meet word search.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!