split infinitive

noun

Definition of split infinitive

  1. :  an infinitive with to having a modifier between the to and the verbal (as in “to really start”)

What is a split infinitive?

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

  1. To really start is an example of a split infinitive.

1890

First Known Use of split infinitive

1890


SPLIT INFINITIVE Defined for English Language Learners

split infinitive

noun

Definition of split infinitive for English Language Learners

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


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