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My high school English teacher always nagged us about not splitting our infinitives, but this would just sound wrong if I said "as not to drop anything." Is this an acceptable exception?

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No you can't - it's “Go slowly so as to not drop anything”? Or more likely, perhaps, “Go slowly so as not to drop anything”? The "spilt infinitive" is a hoary old chestnut that you'd do better to forget about. –  FumbleFingers Dec 16 '13 at 23:40
    
Oooh, THAT'S why it sounded wrong. It definitely needed that "so." Thanks for the help! –  ssuzan Dec 19 '13 at 1:41
    
I think your "near-namesake" Susan has actually covered the split infinitive quite succinctly, and would presumably have mentioned the missing "so" even if I hadn't already commented. So play up and play the game! Upvote (and/or accept) her answer! It seems a bit odd that my comment has 5 upvotes where her answer has only 2 (one of which is mine anyway! :) –  FumbleFingers Dec 19 '13 at 1:46

2 Answers 2

The split infinitive is no longer looked down upon. Feel free to split them if you wish. In this case, however, I would definitely use so + as + to, as pointed out by FumbleFingers.

The most famous English split infinitive caused a grammatical stir upon its introduction, which the writers wisely ignored.

...to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.

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As you say, the Star Trek writers wisely ignored any potential objections from pedants (i.e. - splitting the infinitive with adverbial "boldly" is actually the preferred phrasing there). But for OP's specific example (and this sentence! :) I think I'd slightly prefer not to split it with negating "not". –  FumbleFingers Dec 17 '13 at 4:41

If you've a high school English teacher who nagged about split infinitives that says a lot more about the quality of high school education, than it does about English.

It's certainly worth knowing as part of the history of the language that there was a brief period in which a strange cult of English intellectuals, having abandoned Latin for the vernacular in their bible and prayerbook, were caught up in a spirit of longing for it, and tried to insert it into their English grammar book.

Saying you shouldn't split the infinitive in English is like saying you shouldn't give oats to a horse, because you never do to a car.

But outside of that bit of historical interest, what business does an English teacher have teaching such nonsense?

It's also worth considering with composition that when there is a splitting and non-splitting form available, that the non-splitting may well sound better, but that's not because not splitting is inherently better, and there are as many cases where the opposite is true.

In this case, I find it hard to decide on a preference: one has the idiomatic "so as to" while the other applies the negative to the whole of the infinitive which just personally strikes me as slightly preferable (in a very subjective way, there's no real way to justify that preference in terms of grammar).

The more unusual matter would be saying "as to" about an intent, generally "so as to" explains an intent, and "as to" meaning with regard to:

Go slowly so as to not drop anything.

I'm puzzled as to how you dropped that, even though you went slowly.

Dropping "so" is more colloquial.

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Well to be fair, high school was some time ago, and my teacher was rather old. But I'm glad to know this before I become a teacher myself! –  ssuzan Dec 19 '13 at 1:42
    
It is one of a set of particularly silly "rules" that came about by trying to copy Latin in an irrelevant way. In this case infinitives aren't split because it's impossible in Latin (like giving oats to a car). The "don't end on a preposition" is almost the opposite - it's not allowed in Latin precisely because Latin has looser placement rules than English and if you could move prepositions around it would be unclear what they referred to, but since the rest of an English sentence will be more strictly structured, no such problem exists. –  Jon Hanna Dec 19 '13 at 11:15
    
Some people call such rules "zombie rules"; alleged rules of grammar that not only do not relate to the English language as it is actually spoken and written by competent speakers, but which also never did (as opposed to rules that were accepted once, but which died or weakened as the language changed). The 18th Century push to copy Latin isn't the only source (e.g. people argue about the plurality of none purely in terms of English history, but it's still always allowed both singular and plural agreement), but it is a rich one. –  Jon Hanna Dec 19 '13 at 11:17

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