Writing with Infinitives

A split infinitive is a phrase in which one or more words are placed between the word “to” and its accompanying verb. “To boldly go” is a split infinitive because “boldly” is interrupting the more basic pattern “to go". For many writers, “have worked diligently” is more acceptable than “have diligently worked,” in that the verb “have worked” is not interrupted. Also, work in itself cannot be “diligent,” and the phrasing “have diligently worked” could imply otherwise. Now consider this sentence:

The plastic contains a catalyst that causes it to completely and naturally disappear in a few months.

A revised version of the sentence would bring together the two words in question:

The plastic contains a catalyst that causes it to disappear completely and naturally in a few months.

Now, “completely and naturally” is more obviously describing the intact phrase, “to disappear.” As in this case, usually the words that split an infinitive can go outside the infinitive or be omitted altogether.

Split infinitives do appear in writing, and many writers find them acceptable as long as they are infrequent and that they do not disturb either sense or sound. For example:

It is comforting to finally understand differential equations.

If you split infinitives, don't do it often, - some academics might view them as unacceptable style.

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SMILE - Grammar by Vince Ricci: CIEE, Joe Schall: Penn State University, Glynis Perkin: Loughborough University, edited by Marion Kelt: GCU is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.