Confused Expressions #11: To Split the Infinitive, Boldly

You’ve likely heard the rule that in English, the infinitive should never be “split”; in this view, the infinitive form of a verb (“to” + verb, such as “to blog”) is a union as sacred as Holy Matrimony and introducing a third word in between the particle and the verb is akin to committing adultery.

Not at all! Those who claim one should never split an infinitive in English are as confused as the rule they’re quoting. “To boldly go where no one has gone before,” to timidly take the most famous example of a split infinitive, is perfectly grammatical, and sounds a lot better than the alternatives (“to go boldly where no one has gone before,” “boldly to go where no one has gone before,” or “to go where no one has gone before, boldly.”)

The point isn’t whether splitting the infinitive is the correct or incorrect way to proceed in English; it’s that, as a writer, you should feel free to split or not split as the sentence requires (i.e., what sounds better to your hopefully well-trained ear).

Having said that, please keep in mind that nouns and verbs are the meat and potatoes (or tofu and potatoes, if you prefer) of sentences; adverbs and adjectives are seasonings. So whether you choose to split or choose not to split the infinitive, do go easy on the salt and pepper!

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Karl El-Koura was born in Dubai, United Arab Emirates and currently lives with his beautiful editor-wife in Canada’s capital city. More than sixty of his short stories and articles have been published in magazines since 1998, and in 2012 he independently published his debut novel Father John VS the Zombies.

Posted in Blog, Confused Expressions

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