Split infinitive definition: A split infinitive occurs when another word is placed between “to” and the verb in an infinitive.
What is an Infinitive?
An infinitive is the base form of a verb that exists before it is conjugated.
- to swim
- to run
- to jump
- to play
The infinitive includes “to” and the verb.
What is a Split Infinitive?
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.
Following are some examples of infinitives next to split infinitives.
Infinitive/Split Infinitive Examples:
- to swim/ to quickly swim
- to run/ to slowly run
- to jump/ to bravely jump
- to play/ to imaginatively play
These split infinitive examples all have an adverb separating the base form of the verb.
Is Splitting an Infinitive a Mistake?
Splitting infinitives is not necessarily a mistake.
Experienced writers sometimes choose to split infinitives for various reasons. Primarily, splitting infinitives is a stylistic choice.
English grammar rules suggest that splitting infinitives is not the best way to write or speak. However, this rule is more a guideline than anything else.
Novice writers or students new to the English language should probably avoid from splitting infinitives. However, experienced writers are free to use because they understand the rules of the language.
Sometimes it is very clear that splitting an infinitive is a good choice.
Writers will split infinitives to emphasize an adverb. This is a stylistic choice.
- They seem to really enjoy their new assignment.
- This example splits the infinitive “to enjoy” with the adverb “really.” In this case, “really” would have a particular emphasis.
- Without split infinitive: They really seem to enjoy their new assignment.
- Now, “really” seems less emphasized in the sentence.
Sometimes splitting infinitives is clearly a poor choice.
- She wants to clearly visit grandma this weekend.
- This example splits the infinitive “to visit” with the adverb “clearly.” This split just causes confusion within the sentence.
Other Functions of Infinitives
Infinitives can function as nouns, adjectives, and adverbs.
Infinitives as Nouns
When an infinitive acts as a noun, it can take the place of any noun in a sentence. That is, it can be the subject but it can also be the object.
Noun Subject Example:
- To skip is freeing.
- In this example, the infinitive functions as the subject doing the action of the sentence.
Noun Object Example:
- The girl loves to skip.
- In this example, the infinitive functions as the object, the thing that the subject does.
Infinitives as Adjectives
When an infinitive acts as an adjective, it must modify a noun.
- To skip, you have to spend time practicing.
- In this example, the infinitive functions as an adjective because it modifies the noun, you.
- The best way to skip is to place one knee high while hopping with the other foot.
- In this example, the infinitive functions as an adjective because it modifies the noun, way.
Infinitive as Adverbs
When an infinitive phrase acts as an adverb, it must answer one of the following questions,
- How much?
- Sarah wants to bring a toy to share.
- In this example, the infinitive functions as an adverb because it answers WHY Sarah wants to bring a toy.
- He worked hard to provide.
- In this example, the infinitive functions as an adverb because it answers WHY he worked hard.
Summary: What are Split Infinitives?
Define split infinitive: the definition of split infinitive is an infinitive verb composed of to followed by one or more modifiers before the verb.
To sum up, a split infinitives:
- occur when a word separates “to” and the verb of the base form of a verb
- are not necessarily poor grammar
- are a stylistic choice
- can be used by experienced writers