Our strict grammarian teachers always told us never to split an infinitive.
However, I often hear and read split infinitives, such as to
boldly go, and they seem correct. Is it still not OK to split
Salt Lake City, UT
The split infinitive seems to always be with us! Its
prohibition has been mostly the occupation of grammarians schooled in
the finer points of the Latin language in the late 19th century. This
structure has been a feature of English for centuries and rarely causes
a lapse in communication or effectiveness. There are far more egregious
errors that we ought to spend precious teaching time on. (Note that
I also don't mind ending that last sentence with a preposition!)
I believe that it is actually a good thing to split infinitives
in certain cases. Doing so clearly shows which word the adverb
in the phrase is modifying: the verb directly after it.
Look at these examples from Marcella Frank (Modern English,
Prentice Hall Regents, 1993), who says:
As evidence that the best writers have not hesitated to use this
(mid-) position of adverbs with infinitives, we cite here examples
of "split" infinitives taken from the works of reputable
authors of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
to still further limit the hours
without permitting himself to actually mention
in order to fully appreciate Lord Holland
to half surmise the truth
I wish the reader to clearly understand
to further complicate our problem
Some of these examples really clarify the modification of the verb
that is in the infinitive form.
Of course, we shouldn't prescribe splitting the infinitive; it's just
that, sometimes, using it is accurate and beautiful to describe what
you mean. As Barbara has stated, it is not a point to get hung up on.
(Note that I also don't mind ending this last sentence with a preposition.)