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What Are Split Infinitives?

An infinitive is a non-personal form of a verb that combines the properties of a verb and a noun. An infinitive is a verb form that can follow immediately after a modal verb, for example, the verb should or must.

The infinitive can also be used with a particle «to».

I should go now.
We will wait.

The infinitive can also be used with a particle «to».

I want to go.
We will have to wait.

However, many English learners have the wrong impression that an infinitive is a form such as to write or to go. This view is erroneous, and students need to understand that the particle to is not part of the infinitive at all.

What does split infinitive mean?

A split infinitive means that there is a word or words between the word “to” and the verb in the base (infinitive) form of the verb. The words that split infinitives most often are adverbs.

Grammatically, it is acceptable to separate the particle «to» the infinitive with a word or phrase. For example, in the sentence "The teacher asked the student to carefully read the lesson." the adverb carefully separates the particle «to» from the rest of the infinitive read. Similarly, in the sentence "She decided to never touch another beer can." the adverb never separates the particle to and the infinitive touch. The phrases "to carefully read" and "to never touch" are examples of infinitive separation. Many philologists still believe that separating the particle and the infinitive is wrong. They think that the adverb should be used either before «to» or after the infinitive, as in the following example: "The teacher asked the student to read the lesson carefully."

In some sentences, when the position of the adverb that stands after the particle on in the infinitive changes, the meaning of the sentence changes.

For example, consider the sentence «She wishes to really understand his motives.»

Now let's try to change the position of the adverb really:

  • She really wishes to understand his motives.
  • She wishes really to understand his motives.
  • She wishes to understand really his motives.

None of these sentences means the same thing as the sentence «She wants to really understand his motives."

Using the to-infinitive:

1)To express the goal Did you call to be silent?
I started this course to improve my speaking skills.
2) After the verbs advise, afford (allow yourself financially), agree, appear, decide, expect, hope, manage, offer, pretend promise, refuse, seem, want. She advised me not to carry heavy bags.
He agreed to pay for the car.
We didn't expect to see you here.
Dan offered to review the draft.
My sister is refusing to talk.
She seems to understand you.
3) After adjectives (nice, happy, glad, sorry, kind, etc.) according to the scheme "be + adjective + to-infinitive". It is also possible to modify this scheme — " it + be + adjective + of + person + to-infinitive" I am glad to see you.
She was sorry to hear that.
Gill is always happy to help.
It was kind of you to ask.
It is very generous of her to give so much money to charity.
4)After the combinations would like, would love and would prefer. Would you like to live in Spain?
I'd prefer to go by train.
My wife would love to have this bracelet.
5)Ability, advice, chance, choice, decision, dream, failure, goal, intention, need, offer, opportunity, permission, plan, promise, refusal, reminder, request, demand, method, desire. This is your chance to meet new people.
He followed his dream to become an actor.
It's a reminder to take my medicine.
Is this the only way to get into the house?
6) After the wording with too (too) and enough (enough). This is too good to be true.
The couch is too big to fit in the room.
She is smart enough to fool you.
You're not old enough to travel on your own.
7) After the word only to express an unsatisfactory result. You came back only to leave again.
I ran to the house only to see that everyone wasn't there.

Until recently, the split infinitive was considered acceptable only in conversation. But people so often ignored this rule that the level of its rigidity decreased to the state of a tolerant recommendation. They say, put it where you want, cut it down, don't cut it down – it's your business. But assume that the reader may be old-school and take your split infinitives for your illiteracy.

According to the observations of linguists, the final solution of the question correctly drifts towards the absolute legitimacy of Split Infinitive in all cases. After all, there are already many situations where only a split infinitive saves from ambiguity.

Let's take the first example and run "gradually" through the sentence since there was no place between «to» and the verb:

  • Jill decided GRADUALLY to get rid of the teddy bears she had collected.
  • GRADUALLY, Jill decided to get rid of the teddy bears she had collected.
  • Jill decided to get rid of the teddy bears she had collected GRADUALLY.

You are faced with the choice to split or not split the infinitive. What to do?

1. If it is possible to put the adverb in another place without losing the meaning, do not hesitate to put it.

Jill used to SECRETLY admire him ➡️ she used to admire him SECRETLY.
I try to BETTER understand people's intentions ➡️ I try to understand people's intentions BETTER.
They want to QUICKLY sell the house ➡️ they want to sell the house QUICKLY.

2. This is especially true in situations where more than one word is wedged into the infinitive.

This software allows your company to quickly, easily and cost-effectively manage all tasks ➡️ this software allows your company to manage all tasks QUICKLY, EASILY AND COST-EFFECTIVELY.

3. If the meaning changes and /or the word simply have nowhere to put it, then Split Infinitive is quite appropriate.

They’re expected to GRADUALLY come down in price to about $50 to $75 each “Double”, “triple” and similar-ideally stand after «to» before the verb.
Caterpillar plans to MORE THAN triple employment at its four-year-old diesel generator plant in Newberry.
Jack expects the staff size to MORE THAN double within two years.

Split infinitive examples

Slabkovich noted that he deliberately added a split infinitive in the lyrics to see if listeners would notice it.

At your own risk, you can break the infinitive for stylistics. A classic example from «Star Trek»:
«To BOLDLY go where no man has gone before.»


Before you split an infinitive, think about where you should place your adverb.


Meaning 1:
Rita obviously wants to win the match today.
It is obvious that Rita wants to win.
Meaning 2:
Rita wants to obviously win the match today.
She wants to win in an obvious manner.

Make sure to place the adverb correctly. Sometimes, the split infinitive is the better choice.


Poor❌ Better✔️
Anita quickly wants to finish her work and go home.
It’s not the wanting that’s quick.
Anita wants to quickly finish her work and go home.

Stankovich noted that he deliberately added a separating infinitive to the lyrics of the song to see if the listeners would notice it.

Is my split infinitive of a few lines ago any less (or more) intelligible, or ambiguous, than the alternatives?

One split infinitive, one whack.

He suggested that there might be complaints about a split infinitive, or pedantry of that sort.

Is it not wrong to "adequately express "oneself with a split infinitive?

He provided a classic description of the split infinitive, which can be applied to the rate support grant system.

The term "compound split infinitive" is not found in these dictionaries and appears to be very recent.

No reason for the near disappearance of the split infinitive is known; in particular, no prohibition is recorded.

Ultimately, the rhythms and contrasts of speech are far more significant for smooth and successful global communication than, say, identifying misrelated participles and split infinitives on paper.

Likewise, split infinitives are far more common in speech than in, say, academic writing.

We reserve the right to rejoice in his split infinitives, his mixed metaphors and the strange beings with which his imagination peopled the cases discussed in his classroom.

Despite the widespread use of the split infinitive in colloquial and business language, most well-known educational institutions strongly recommend not to use it in academic English.


Pay attention to the fact that the only function of a particle is that it serves to designate a verb as an infinitive, but does not form any syntactic structure with it.

In other words, this particle is not part of the whole infinitive.

Thus, its separation from the verb infinitive does not contradict the rules of grammar but corresponds to them.

Summarizing the above can draw the following conclusion:

Despite the official sharply negative attitude to split infinitives as a grammatical phenomenon, native English speakers around the world are increasingly using split infinitives, as evidenced by the data of the corpus vocabulary.

The study of the separating infinitive expands the linguistic horizon, contributes to the formation of a meaningful attitude to language learning.

Language worldview contributes to the formation of a meaningful attitude to language learning.

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