Dictionary.com Word FAQs

Is it ever ok to use a split infinitive?

An infinitive is the tenseless form of a verb preceded by to, such as "to win" or "to lose." Splitting an infinitive is the placement of one or more words (usually an adverb) between to and the verb, such as "to easily win" or "to unwisely lose." Other examples are: ...to systematically rid the town of low-income people, or Do you know how to actually relax? The natural positioning for the two elements of an infinitive is together: He proceeded to scale the tree. However, the natural positioning of an adverb is just before the verb: He slowly scaled the tree. The problem comes when the two constructions are blended: He proceeded to slowly scale the tree. Most grammarians favor the infinitive over the adverb and suggest moving the adverb to a position where it can function without interfering with the infinitive. So, we could say: He proceeded to scale the tree slowly. So, if a split infinitive is easily fixed by placing the adverb at the end of the sentence without changing the meaning, then you should choose to do so. Wide splits with multiple adverbs should be avoided, also. There are times, too, when splitting an infinitive is preferable - but this depends on your having a good ear and eyes. And still other times, avoiding a split infinitive can make the phrasing awkward or ambiguous. The question to ask yourself is, "Is my meaning clear?" If you are not planning on avoiding split infinitives, you should be wary of constructions that have more than one word between to and the verb. Also, infinitive phrases in which the adverb precedes a participle, such as "to be clearly understood," are not split and are perfectly fine.

Copyright © 2015 Dictionary.com, LLC. All rights reserved.
About PRIVACY POLICY Terms Careers Contact Us Our Blog Help