How to Avoid Split Infinitives

Learn how to avoid split infinitives from Gotham Writers' Workshop instructor Stephanie Paterik in this Howcast grammar video.

Transcript

I'm going to talk to you about how and why you should avoid split infinitives in your writing and I can't talk about split infinitives without talking about the Start Trek TV show. You may know the famous phrase, "To boldly go where no man has gone before." It s a great TV show but a grammatically incorrect phrase and I'll show you why. So, a split infinitive happens when we have the infinitive form of the verb, like "to go" broken up by an adverb like "boldly." So, you can see in this case, to boldly go creates a split infinitive.

The way to fix this is to simply rearrange the words so that your infinitive stays together, "to go". And "boldly," your adverb, comes after the infinitive. I like to think of infinitives as being connected by super glue. You want to keep them stuck together so that nothing comes between then and the adverb can typically go after or even sometimes before. 

Let's fix another sentence with a split infinitive. This time we have, "If you are gong to quickly eat, be careful." in this sentence to eat is our infinitive verb which essentially means a verb that has not yet been conjugated. Whenever you see the word "to" in front of a verb, chances are you are dealing with an infinitive and you don't want to split it up. In this case, our infinitive is split up by the word "quickly." So, how do we fix this? Well, it's a simple rewrite. By super-gluing our infinitive, "to eat" together and kicking "quickly" to the curb, or essentially kicking it outside of the infinitive "to eat" so that it comes after or before, we avoid the split infinitive and we have a grammatically correct sentence.

In this case, if you are going to eat quickly, be careful. So, the reason why we don't want to split apart infinitives is because we don't want our verbs to go wandering off; we want to keep them together because it keeps the meaning of the sentence clear. Quickly has no sense of confusing the action which is "to eat," so that verb stays strong. 

I hope that that clears up the issue of split infinitives for you and I hope I haven't offended any Star Trek fans out there.

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