- A split infinitive is when an adverb or adverbial phrase is inserted between an infinitive.
- Whether split infinitives are grammatically incorrect is controversial, but it’s best to avoid them in your writing if possible.
- ○ Reginald asked to quickly stop by the bank.
Split Infinitives—Acceptable or Not?
The English language is filled with rules that seem to be rigid but are actually flexible. For example, you’ve probably heard that you aren’t supposed to start a sentence with a conjunction. But the truth is that starting a sentence with a conjunction is perfectly acceptable and actually quite common.
Another rule you may have heard is that split infinitives are grammatically incorrect. Is this true? The simple answer is that in formal settings, writers should avoid split infinitives, but only because they’re controversial, not necessarily because they’re grammatically incorrect. If you’re writing in an informal, casual, or creative setting, a split infinitive might better suit the flow of your writing. In other rare cases, a split infinitive is the best option. Below, we’ll explain what split infinitives are and why they should be avoided most of the time.
What Are Split Infinitives?
To understand split infinitives, you must first know what infinitives are. Simply put, an infinitive is formed by adding “to” in front of the base form of a verb:
Split infinitives are when you take an adverbial phrase and insert it in between an infinitive. For example:
to boldly go
to gracefully dance
to sneakily walk
Now that you know what split infinitives are, we’ll go over more examples. We’ll also explain when they should be avoided and other times when they make sense.
Split Infinitive Examples
There is no clear-cut answer to whether split infinitives are grammatically correct or not. They’ve been around for a long time, and many esteemed writers—like Lord Bryon and F. Scott Fitzgerald—have included them in their writing. But if you’re writing in a formal setting, for a boss, or in any other environment where you might get critiqued, it’s probably best to play it safe and avoid split infinitives. In many cases, it’s easy to rearrange a sentence to get rid of a split infinitive.
Blake decided to cancel the subscription instantly.
There are some scenarios where avoiding a split infinitive causes ambiguity in the sentence. For example:
The alternatives to this sentence are:
Here, occasionally modifies the verb told and changes the meaning of the sentence.
However, in this sentence, moving occasionally to the end makes it unclear whether it’s modifying the verb told or check.
And here’s an example of a sentence in which a split infinitive makes perfect sense:
In this example, more than cannot be moved to any other part of the sentence.
Infinitives: To Split or Not To Split
We recommend playing it safe and avoiding split infinitives. If restructuring a sentence to avoid a split infinitive causes ambiguity, it’s okay to keep it. It’s hard to keep track of all these indecisive rules the English language has. Luckily, LanguageTool can keep track of them for you. This multilingual text editor can detect split infinitives and recommend alternatives. Additionally, it can also correct spelling and grammar mistakes to ensure flawless writing. Try it out.