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I was watching an episode of Psych today, where they made a grammar joke that referenced a term I hadn't heard before.

The quote in question that apparently splits an infinitive is:

(Karen Vick) Well, why don't you tell me how to properly say this: if you share any official information about this case with your father or let him anywhere near any new evidence, then the two of you will have to find another police department to work for and I will personally see to it that each of you is charged with obstruction of justice.

Apart from maybe adding a couple of commas, this seems correct to me.

I don't remember learning about infinitives in grade school. Can someone point out where the infinitive was split? I like being grammatically correct, so knowing that I may have been violating this for years makes me want to educate myself on the matter.

closed as off-topic by Janus Bahs Jacquet, Cascabel, Glorfindel, curiousdannii, Mitch Apr 27 '17 at 13:49

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    Note that there is no grammatical rule, in the linguistic sense, against splitting an infinitive. A good writer avoids putting too much distance between to and the verb so that the reader's flow is uninterrupted, but the idea that it is grammatically as opposed to stylistically deficient is mostly parroted from 18th and 19th century sources who thought, or wished, that English grammar were more like Latin. – choster Apr 22 '17 at 14:35
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    This question puzzles me. You've clearly put effort into presenting it in a proper way, with proper formatting and useful details, which puts you in the group of ‘conscientious’ askers who actually recognise why asking a question properly matters; kudos for that. But then the actual question is quite easily answerable by a simple Google search for split infinitive (the very first hit, the Wiki article, gives enough information to easily identify (!) to properly say as the split infinitive in the quote), which sadly makes it off topic. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Apr 22 '17 at 14:48
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    @Choster: actually, the 18th and 19th century sources were probably reacting to the language changing ... while in Middle English, lots of people split infinitives, the practice became very uncommon in the 16th and 17th century (Shakespeare only split one infinitive, and that was for the sake of a rhyme.) See this webpage. – Peter Shor Apr 22 '17 at 16:07
  • @PeterShor Your reference is otherwise sound, but I must take exception to the notion that French or indeed any Romance language ever “splits” an infinitive. The construction J’ai décidé de ne pas faire quelque chose is exactly the same as J’ai décidé de lui dire quelque chose. Neither splits an infinitive nor is exceptional in any way. You can’t put that ne pas for “not” anywhere else in French, although other Romance languages than French do support enclitic pronouns after the infinitive. One should not consider the to particle in to-infinitives a preposition in any event. – tchrist Apr 22 '17 at 19:19
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    @tchrist "One should not consider the to particle in to-infinitives a preposition in any event." I often hear this, but I'm not actually sure why. It's a preposition in origin and to + infinitive is usually both synonymous with and analogous to for + gerund, in which for is most certainly a preposition. Both constructions are basically datives of purpose. – Anonym Apr 22 '17 at 22:57
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As Janus Bahs Jacquet pointed out in a comment, the split infinitive here is near the beginning:

Well, why don't you tell me how to properly say this:

The infinitive is "to say", and it's split by the word "properly".

  • Would the non-split syntax then be: "Well, why don't you tell me how to say this properly: ..."? – Boom Apr 22 '17 at 21:48
  • @Boom Yes, that's the non-split syntax that I would use. – Tanner Swett Apr 22 '17 at 21:49
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In English the infinitive is of the form “to be”, “to go”, “to sing” etc.

To split an infinitive is to interpose a word (generally an adverb) as in:

“to boldly go”

Now although I personally would put ‘boldly’ after the infinitive here (I do not watch Star Trek), this is just a matter of style or taste. However, there is a fetish, especially in British English, that regards splitting an infinitive as the most serious grammatical crime that one can commit. This is, in fact, nonsense, as the highly respected author Fowler wrote in his Modern English Usage. I quote at length from an extract from a recent edition.

To avoid an unfounded charge of illiteracy, you might feel the need to avoid splitting your infinitives, but don’t feel obliged to. If there is no way to avoid the split without introducing ambiguity, go ahead and split without regret, and refer your uninformed critics to Fowler. He called slavish obedience to such unfounded rules a fetish.

A Daily Telegraph report (27th August 2003) said:

A family doctor who installed a camera secretly to film a woman using his bathroom ...

which is unclear: was the installation secret or is the sentence a clumsy attempt to avoid a split infinitive?

Some other sentences where splitting is unavoidable:

I have to refuse to promise to help to write it.

If you want to refuse to definitely promise, how could you do it without splitting and without ambiguity?

As soon as I read the book I decided to immediately agree to film it if she asked me.

In this case immediately splits to agree, but where else could it sensibly be put?

Sometimes people avoid splitting a non-infinitive: to be greatly regretted is not a split infinitive (the verb is “to be”), but people feel the need to write greatly to be regretted.

Why is splitting an infinitive worse than splitting any other tense? Why do people who would never dream of splitting an infinitive happily split the future tense, as in I will probably be going?

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There are different "style" guides, & they disagree on some points, like splitting infinitives. I was taught a certain way to do it, where you need to add more commas, but strictly some are optional. Default would be to add more rather than less, but more importantly go with what "feels" or sounds right. I have a friend, a professional, published fiction author & he blow his grammar all the time ON PURPOSE to get a certain "feel" from a sentence or paragraph. He's knows he's using bad grammar, does it on purpose.

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