Do you split hairs over split infinitives? Inserting an adverb between to and the verb–splitting an infinitive–is often given more attention than it deserves. Many have learned that it should never be done. Are you surprised to learn that in some cases it is actually okay?
First you should know, one of the most prestigious and strict style manuals, The Chicago Manual of Style, actually states the following:
Although from about 1850 to 1925 many grammarians stated otherwise, it is now
widely acknowledged that adverbs sometimes justifiably separate the to from the
principal verb (5.106; p.175).
Who can deny that Star Trek’s To boldly go where no man has gone before would not be as interesting if it were not for the split infinitive. To go boldly where no man has gone before just isn’t as cosmic. In fact, it’s perfectly appropriate to split an infinitive verb with an adverb to add emphasis or to produce a natural sound as is the case for this Star Trek example. The same would hold for to bravely assert, to strongly favor or to carefully consider. In these cases, split away!
Generally, avoid splitting infinitives if the meaning is unclear or the construction is awkward. For example, compare these sentences:
1. It was impossible to even see a foot ahead.
2. It was impossible to see even a foot ahead.
3. He always tries to carefully do the work.
4. He always tries to do the work carefully.
Notice in sentences 2 and 4 the meaning is clearer and the construction is more direct. In these examples, it is better not to split the infinitive. So the next time someone tries to tell you that you can never split an infinitive, beam them up!
1. “Grammar and Usage” in The Chicago Manual of Style (15th ed.). (2003). Chicago, IL: The
University of Chicago Press.