SPLIT INFINITIVE

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SPLIT INFINITIVE. A prescriptive term for an INFINITIVE phrase such as to cut or to enjoy that has been opened up (‘split’, ‘cleft’) by the insertion of a word or phrase (especially an adverb), as in: ‘to sharply cut the federal deficit’; ‘encouraging more people to, for example, park their cars’. Long a major bone of contention among teachers, grammarians, and commentators on style and usage, the split infinitive in the last two decades has become a matter of minor concern. For further discussion of the controversy, see USAGE GUIDANCE AND CRITICISM.

split infinitive

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split infinitive a construction consisting of an infinitive with an adverb or other word inserted between to and the verb, e.g. she seems to really like it. Although it is still widely held that such a construction is wrong, the dislike of it is not well-founded, being based on an analogy with Latin, where infinitives consist of only one word.

In English, the placing of an adverb may be extremely important in giving a particular emphasis; in some cases, splitting an infinitive can only be avoided at the cost of losing such emphasis.

split infinitive

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split in·fin·i·tive • n. a construction consisting of an infinitive with an adverb or other word inserted between to and the verb, e.g., she seems to really like it.