Talk:Split infinitive

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Unclear Language[edit]

In the "descriptivist objection" section there is this sentence: "Thus the descriptivist objection involves a person whose idiolect does not have the construction advising against its use on the grounds that it is not the norm. " It has three negatives and is not clear. I think someone who knows what it is trying to say should re-work it. I have had no luck unraveling it and am not an expert. Also, idiolect could be linked to its wikipedia page. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 64.208.4.10 (talk) 12:38, 5 September 2008 (UTC)

I do not want to alter the main page for fear of ruining its format so I will post here my point.

Root pity in thy heart, that when it grows Thy pity may deserve to pitied be (Sonnet 142) — Preceding unsigned comment added by 216.183.138.131 (talk) 17:52, 19 November 2017 (UTC)

You have to split the to , and inlection from the verb, or verbal or gerund, unless it is modifiying that exact word.

The to as inlection modifies the word semantically next to it to the relevant right in the primary grammatically ordinary place and to the left, in hyperbatten, topicallization and therefore "splitting" it from another word as it is emphasizing that that word being moved to the left of the syntactic segment is the key topic , focus, rheme of the segment or the sentence topic as a whole. Moving anything to the left places it into key focus (rheme) as the topic or theme, so anyone being a precriptivist and stating it should not happen is in serious error and knows nothing about grammar!


Root pity in thy heart, that when it grows Thy pity---,{the topic} {topicalizing the segment, moving it forward to the left, rather than the "relevant primary semantic right position of segment" focusing on the undecided thought not yet determined to be as yet deserving, given "may deserve" is semantically next}

--may deserve--- {going forward inflection on the word that semantically follows it, "to" so "thy pity"---past tense state of being start, its being as yet undecided if that was the exact emotion felt or observed,it (the state of pity, may or may not be what the ambivalent observer speaker feels) so hence it is saying the speaker is still ambivalent} ----to pitied ---{stating the current moment, and as pitied rhemed before it ---be---{the split-infinitive for this reason is necessary to communicate that at the moment the emphasis of the aspect of state of being pitied , in the moment, is the key focus/ rheme, as it as a segment was topicalized to the left to emphasize the point, the rheme and the focu on the moment  and  hence the ambivalence in the moment of being}  (Sonnet 142). 

The split of to and the be by pitied is rheming and focusing the emphasis semantically on the key point. Moving anything that modifies, to the left is topicalizing hyperbatten moving it into focu or rheme and is a necessary part of grammar for semantic understanding of meaning. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 216.183.138.131 (talk) 17:49, 19 November 2017 (UTC)

Spoken version[edit]

Timwi has just added the "spoken version" tag which was removed last year. The reason it was removed was that the article has been completely rewritten, and the old text found in the spoken version is not to be recommended. Obviously it would be best to re-record this, but that is a big job for someone, and should probably wait until the article gets GA status, i.e. until we are sure we are not about to make more substantial changes. Meanwhile, is it best to leave this tag, or leave it with a warning of some sort, or just delete it again? --Doric Loon 14:29, 10 June 2007 (UTC)


Moriarty[edit]

About the sentence: "In any case, Moriarty is clearly in error when she dates the prohibition to a time when Latin was regarded as the only scholarly language - this was not the case in 1834." What wasn't the case -- that Latin was regarded as the only scholarly language, or that the prohibition against splitting infinitives was in effect? Moreover, if this author mangles basic facts about the history of split infinitives is this something important enough to be quoting and dissecting within the article? Just my two bits. Daniel Freeman 13:15, 11 September 2007 (UTC)

Hard to say what she was thinking. Either she thought the controversy was centuries older than it actually is (I suspect that is the case) or she thought Latin was the sole scholarly language much longer than it was. English became regarded as a serious scholarly language in the 16th or 17th century, but was beginning to be used for serious writing quite a bit earlier than that. The split infinitive controversy only began in the 19th century, so she is clearly wrong to see it in that context. I agree that she is hardly a significant writer, and possibly the quote should be replaced with another one. --Doric Loon 15:13, 12 September 2007 (UTC)
As I recall, the purpose of the quotation is to show specifically what real people believed the argument from Latin was, as some editors here doubted anyone could think anything so absurd. I would certainly rather see a quotation from someone more famous and more knowledgeable about the split infinitive. And I wouldn't miss the "clearly" in error sentence if people believe it's beating a dead horse. —JerryFriedman 04:30, 13 September 2007 (UTC)

Lowth[edit]

The article now says that Lowth did NOT proscribe against the split infinitive. Every reference I have ever seen says that he did, and he is cited in Garner's latest usage manual. Where is the evidence he did NOT create this proscription? Manning 20:17, 23 September 2007 (UTC)

I read Lowth's book and didn't find anything about split infinitives. If that's not good enough, see [1]. It's cited in the article, but not at "first known prohibition", which maybe it should be. —JerryFriedman 20:53, 23 September 2007 (UTC)

Ah, but that's the way myths grow, isn't it? A thing is said often enough and you will never root it out. But it is up to you, Manning Bartlett, to find a citation in Lowth, not for us to prove there is none. --Doric Loon 10:24, 24 September 2007 (UTC)

Actually, at least one of the usage books we cite says the prohibitions appeared in the mid 19th century. The AHDEU? We should probably cite that too at the beginning of "History of the controversy", as Manning probably won't be the only person with this question.
Manning, if you've want, you can add the cite from Garner to footnote 13 as more evidence that reputable people believe in the myth. —JerryFriedman 14:28, 24 September 2007 (UTC)
I think the Lowth statement is better supported now. Thanks for bringing this up, Manning. —JerryFriedman 04:20, 25 September 2007 (UTC)

Nearly a couple of years later, but this page inspired me to reread, cover to cover (why didn't they have indexes in those days?) my editions of Bullokar (1586), Wallis (1653), Cooper (1685), Brightland (1746); Johnson (1755), Priestley (1761), Lowth (1762), Ash (1785), Cobbett (1820) Murray (1852 American edition) . No prescriptions against split infinitives that I could see. It's not until Angus (1870.132) that I found: 'The to of an infinitive mood should never be separated from its verb by an adverb. Such phrases as 'To rightly use,' To really understand' are improper'. Angus gives no reasons. I haven't added this citation to the article, as I am not sure whether we can consider Angus to really be an 'authority'. Onions (1904), referring to the construction as 'the split infinitive' writes: '...it is generally admitted that a constant and unguarded use of it is not to be encouraged.' He admits its historical precedence, citing a c.1450 example. So if Fowler wasn't against it, then the real age of prescription was pretty short. Burchfield , however, in his 1996 revision of Fowler (1926) writes:' There can be no doubt that there continues to be a noticeable reluctance to split infinitives in the national press and in the work of many of our most respected writers.' It appears to me that there are many people who feel that the authorities are against the split infinitive, but not many who can quote the actual authorities. Even Crystal (1995) refers to the large number of people against it, but quotes only one , Sir Stafford Northcote (a statesman, not a grammarian). He cites ten authorities (including himself) who do not object to split infinitives. --gramorak (talk) 18:32, 28 July 2009 (UTC)

Borrowing from French[edit]

It is not clear that this section is correct, at least as regards French. The proper French translation of "I decide to not do something" does not include the particle "de." Rather, contrary to the claim that "the preposition is not considered a part of the infinitive form," the preposition is in fact part of the lexical infinitive, but not as a separate word. That is, the translation of "faire" is not "do" but "to do," and the proper French translation is "Je décide ne pas faire quelque chose." This is true of other Romance languages as well; the reason they do not refer to split infinitives is that they are impossible because the infinitive does not have a separate particle. --uvaphdman 19:53, 2 December 2007 (UTC)uvaphdman

The French for "I decide not to do" really is "Je décide de ne pas faire". See this French-English dictionary or try Google for a very rough approximation of usage:
"je décide de ne pas": 20,900
"je décide ne pas": 196
"Faire" is indeed often translated "to do", but also often as just "do". In fact it can be both—"je dois le faire", I should do it, I ought to do it. One could debate, though, whether the "de" above is really equivalent to the English "to". —JerryFriedman (Talk) 20:23, 2 December 2007 (UTC)

Yes, Jerry's right. Please note that the article doesn't claim that the de in this French sentence is syntactically identical to the to in the English equivalent - just that there is a superficial similarity which might have been enough to trigger a linguistic borrowing. --Doric Loon 00:24, 3 December 2007 (UTC)


"Thus it might be argued that the English split infinitive ("I decide to not do something") may have arisen under the influence of French".
This claim seems rather suspect to say the least. In English we have incredible flexibility in word order due to the breakdown of inflections. Thus the same statement could be varied to read: I decide not to do something; I decide to do nothing; I haven't decided to do something; etc. I don't see influence; I see parallel development. Split infinitives are an internal development in English. Also, the argument using comparison to other Germanic languagues is faulty, since the same dismantling of inflected forms occurred independently in each, and rules laid down for English and German came much later in their histories. It's an attempt at using present linguistic coincidences to explain past linguistic events. Utter nonsense! I move to remove the entire section. Leasnam (talk) 21:40, 9 November 2010 (UTC)
Well, not utter nonsense, in my opinion. However, it does need a citation. I was embarrassed recently to see this page from a linguistics book that cites the Wikipedia article for the claim that some scholars "consider that it is the result of a French influence". If there are such scholars, we should say who they are. And it would be nice if the scholars had some evidence beside the similarity of the English and French constructions. —JerryFriedman (Talk) 06:06, 10 November 2010 (UTC)

A question[edit]

Would the following be regarded as a split infinive? And if not, then what?

"Are you going to talk?"
"Yes, I'm going to"

Since the second person has omitted "talk" from the end of his answer, which would otherwise leave "to talk" there.


No, this is not a split infinitive. It is just a shortened form of a construction which I suspect is uniquely English. A similar situation with finite verbs is:
Does he talk much?
Yes, he does. (="does talk much")
Most languages have situations where a word which strictly is necessary for a construction to be complete may be dropped because it is obvious what is meant, and these echo situations, where the first speaker already used the word which the second speaker can then assume, are typical examples. But I can't think that any other language leaves the infinitive marker in stressed position while dropping the infinitive itself. --Doric Loon (talk) 07:01, 20 April 2008 (UTC)

BTW, the term for this is "ellipsis". This does bring into question the assertion that "to talk" forms a linguistic unit. "Yes, I am" would also be considerd a perfectly fine answer to the question, but "Yes, I am going" would not. So, apparently, the word "to" is attached to "going", not "talk". In other words, English uses the phrase "going to" to indicate future tense. Just "going", by itself, would be present progressive. The "to" modifies "going", not "talk". So "I am going to really enjoy this" would not be an example of a split infinitive (can you imagine someone saying "I am going really to enjoy this"?)Heqwm (talk) 06:09, 25 April 2008 (UTC)

Can you find a source for that? It is very interesting, and if any linguist has taken that view in a citable work I would say we should include it in the section on origins of the construction - it shows that the role of "to" has changed over time. But it may also be that the future tense is a special case. Would it also work that way with "decided to"? I am more sceptical there. --Doric Loon (talk) 07:03, 26 April 2008 (UTC)
The standard analysis in generative grammar (both transformational and otherwise) is to analyze to as an auxiliary verb. (See, e.g., Syntax: A Formal Introduction 2003 by Ivan A. Sag, Thomas Wasow and Emily Bender). Thus He decided to, She never told me anyone was able to, etc., are examples of "verb phrase ellipsis," just like she can, no one will, and so on. But this does not necessarily diagnose the connectedness of going to vs to talk, but simply that talk is a unit. --rikdzin (talk) 23:14, 12 July 2008 (UTC)
More interesting stuff. My knowledge of linguists' ideas on syntax is both meager and obsolete. I imagine they have some explanation for why can, will, etc. never appear in a situation where to can appear, and (to get to the topic of the article) why not appears after the auxiliary in she will not but almost always before in she decided not to. Anyway, I think this analysis should be cited in the article, and I'll do a little based on the snippet at Google Books. If there's a succinct way to say how they account for the rarity of the "to ADVERB VERB" construction at some times in the past, the continued rarity of that construction with not etc., and the avoidance of it by some present speakers (you know who you are), that would be great to add, but I can't do it. —JerryFriedman (Talk) 22:33, 14 July 2008 (UTC)
Incidentally, a problem I've run into on other subjects: if we want to claim that this is the standard generative analysis, how do we substantiate that? —JerryFriedman (Talk) 22:48, 14 July 2008 (UTC)
Yes: the main difference between to and and the rest is captured (again, in some modern theories) in terms of finiteness. As to the goodness of she decided not to but he badness of she decided to not, I'm not sure what people in general say. I know of one account in HPSG by Ivan Sag, but the technicalities would probably be inappropriate for an article on the history and usage of the split infinitive. As to determining the standardness of a parcticular analysis: any number of introductory textbooks may be cited, or technical articles. However, they may not all agree on terminology. E.g., one group of articles may call to an auxiliary verb, while the others say it is a inflectional head. These are actually essentially equivalent, but to the uninitiated might seem rather different. -rikdzin (talk) 20:59, 16 July 2008 (UTC)

You can say it's standard when it finds its way out of exploratory works and into tertiary texts (text books, encyclopedias). I think this is very interesting, but it needs a fuller explanation than you have given. The idea that "to" is a verb is so radical that it would need more than one citation. I also wonder if it is helpful to drop that in the middle of the argument on prescriptive objections, where you have it. Further up the page there is a sentence on generative grammar, in the section on how the construction arose, and that would be the place to discus the syntax analysis. --Doric Loon (talk) 05:04, 15 July 2008 (UTC)

I actually didn't mean to imply that any particular modern analysis of infinitival to belongs in an article on the split infinitive at all, though perhaps it might. I can look around for suitable references if it's useful (see also my reply above to JerryFriedman). -rikdzin (talk) 20:59, 16 July 2008 (UTC)
Maybe modern analyses belong at Infinitive (where the auxiliary-verb theory is notably missing). Maybe what this article needs is simply a statement that both analyses and terminology have varied a great deal over the years and we're simply talking about a phenomenon and the history and current state of prescriptions concerning it. (I can't think that hard at the moment, though.) However, I think theories that account for the history of the split infinitive or the present avoidance of it by some, particularly in some cases, are great to mention here with a source for the interested reader. —JerryFriedman (Talk) 00:07, 17 July 2008 (UTC)

"A cardinal sin"[edit]

Amusing passage on split infinitives by Arnold Bennett here. I don't know whether it should go in the article. —JerryFriedman (Talk) 01:57, 10 November 2008 (UTC)

A couple of things from my first introduction to the concept[edit]

There are a couple of things I'd love to see worked into this article just because they are from my first research into the topic: Looking it up in the dictionary.

My old unabridged Random House has these two things to say about the topic:

1] To really get to know someone you have to have lived with them.

Placing 'really' anywhere else makes for awkward phrasing.

2] Traditionalists',purists', and other schoolmarmish stylists' objections notwithstanding, there is nothing wrong with a split infinitive in English. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 24.41.60.82 (talk) 09:50, 14 December 2008 (UTC)

In your first example, I think two phrasings that come to mind have slightly different emphasis:
  • To really get to know someone you have to have lived with them.
  • To get to really know someone you have to have lived with them.
Depending on which infinitive you split, you get a different emphasis. To me, this says that the split infinitive is not "incorrect", but rather a semantically meaningful construct... and should be taught and learned as such.
This also reinforces my belief that making a programing language "English-like" in any way is naught but foolishness supreme. But that is a digression to which I shall not go further into, lest I spend the rest of the day talking like Jeeves. -- Resuna (talk) 18:07, 17 February 2009 (UTC)


I doubt very much that there is a meaningful difference between those two. Both are identical in meaning to the non-split:

  • To get to know someone really well you have to have lived with them.

Theoretically it would be possible to express slight differences of logic through these, but I doubt very much that any English speakers really do. To make your argument plausible, you would have to demonstrate that there are actually people who use both of those and distinguish them consciously. Otherwise they are just linguistic habits used unthinkingly, and not carrying meaningful distinctions at all. I agree that the split infinitive is useful and idiomatic, but there are also varieties of English which don't have it and they can express anything they need to. When people try to argue that they have found a split infinitive which expresses something which cannot be said any other way, I never find them terribly convincing. --Doric Loon (talk) 20:10, 17 February 2009 (UTC)

One emphasizes the process of learning about the other person, the other emphasizes the depth of understanding the other person. -- Resuna (talk) 17:23, 25 June 2009 (UTC)

The German example "to know her is to love her"[edit]

What exactly is the German translation referred to here? —Preceding unsigned comment added by 70.234.149.199 (talk) 14:12, 5 January 2009 (UTC)

Like English, German infinitives have both a bare form without zu and an extended form with it. Unlike English, the bare form is used when the infinitive stands alone (in vocabulary lists) or as the subject or predicate nominative of a sentence. So the literal translation of that sentence is Sie kennen ist sie lieben, not *Sie zu kennen ist sie zu lieben. That's a bad example because the English meaning is so idiomatic it gets lost in translation. More straightforward examples include:

  • To see is to believe. / Sehen ist glauben.
  • To err is human. / Irren ist menschlisch.

Like English, German uses the extended infinitive with zu after most but not all verbs, and also after adjectives and prepositions. Sluggoster (talk) 14:39, 16 February 2009 (UTC)

Your first example is bad because we would normally say "seeing is believing". But "To err is human" would be super, and if you prefer it, feel free to put it in the article. I don't think it is correct to use the terminology "full and bare infinitive" for German. That is applying English grammar categories to another language, which is dangereous precisely because German is quite closely analagous here. --Doric Loon (talk) 20:22, 16 February 2009 (UTC)
one commentator sees the roots of this controversy in the Enlightenment's continued focus on Latin and the Hellinistic world as an ideal to be emulated in the modern; thus the attempt to force English, a Germanic language, into a "Latin corset" as according to this author split infinitives go back in English to the work of Chaucer
There's some discussion of that claim in the article here. If you've got a reliable source that adds something to the discussion, I hope you'll add it. —JerryFriedman (Talk) 05:10, 25 June 2009 (UTC)

Removed text[edit]

Split infinitives are to be avoided when Latin infinitives are translated into English.

Removed because I think the person who said it may be joking.

Latin also tended to put adverbs in front of verbs rather than after them.[removed1 1][removed1 2] In the split infinitive, the adverb always comes before the verb.

Removed because the relevance is unclear. In particular, the anti-splitting theorists saw (or even still see) the adverb as going before only part of the verb.

As it is discussed above, a split infinitive such as "to quickly find" may reflect a natural word order such as "I quickly found it."

Removed as unneeded repetition. —JerryFriedman (Talk) 23:58, 19 February 2009 (UTC)

More removed text[edit]

I removed the last sentence of the lead, though it's been there a long time:

It can be used for intentional effect, as a form of hyperbaton (as discussed below), and has been employed to good effect by some major poets (see below).

We don't have any source or example for the hyperbaton statement. Also, I think that's a really minor issue. Most of us who use split infinitives do so without thinking about it (a statement I believe and we do have a source for); it's just the natural word order for us. By the same token, we would seldom notice a split infinitive as an intentional rhetorical effect. If we do want the use as hyperbaton in the article, I don't think it's important enough to go in the lead.

Likewise I don't see that the use in poetry is particularly important. We do need the example from Shakespeare and the one from Burns, but I don't think the Shakespeare one is necessarily "to good effect". Anyway, much though I like poetry, I'd say it's outside the mainstream of usage, so it doesn't belong in the lead.

If anyone puts either part of that sentence back in, I think there may be some better place. —JerryFriedman (Talk) 02:37, 29 July 2009 (UTC)

"To" is needed to distinguish the Infinitive from the Present Tenses.[edit]

The article makes clear —apropos the "Latin" argument— that in English the infinitive is two words, not one. That is, it might seem improper to split the English verb to love; but in Latin, it is impossible to split the verb amare. According to some, one may not split infinitives in English, whereas in the Romance languages the infinitive cannot be split, it is indivisible.

What the article makes no mention of, however, is the remarkable simplicity of English verbs vis-a-vis verbs in the Romance languages —and why this necessitates the preposition "to" in the infinitive.

Except for to be and to wit, each verb in the English language has only 4 or 5 inflections. In the Romance languages, by contrast, a verb can have as many as 47. For instance:

English to love Present Indicative
/Present Subjunctive
/Imperative, love
Present Indicative (3rd Person singular), loves Past Indicative
/Past Subjunctive
/Past Participle, loved
Present Participle, loving
Spanish amar Present Indicative, amo - amas - ama - amamos - amais - aman Past Indicative, amé - amaste - amo - amamos - amasteis - amaron Future Indicative, amaré - amarás - amarán - amarémos - amaréis - amarán Imperfect Indicative, amaba - amabas - amaba - amabamos -amasteis - amaban Conditional Indicative, amaría - amarías - amaría - amaríamos - amaríais - amarían Present Subjunctive, ame - ames - ame - amemos -améis - amen Imperfect Subjunctive, amara - amaras - amara - amaramos - amarais - amaran Imperative, ama - ame - amemos - amad - amen Present Participle, amando Past Participle, amado

Notice that while (in Spanish) the infinitive is distinct from all the other tenses, in English it performs several different duties. Unless written with the preposition "to", the infinitive in English creates ambiguity as to whether it forms a clause or an infinitive phrase. This might raise issues of punctuation, flow, and even sentence fragmentation.

I suggest that the article make note of this, since a split infinitive can give the false impression that it is the present tense in a clause and not the main verb in a phrase. What do you think?Pine (talk) 23:28, 29 July 2009 (UTC)

I think you would have to give me an example of a sentence where a split infinitive is ambiguous in the way you suggest. Also, I haven't seen this in the literature, so is it OR? --Doric Loon (talk) 23:49, 30 July 2009 (UTC)
I agree. Also, some infinitives in English don't have "to", such as "I saw him do it. If there's a source for the statement that English infinitives often have "to" because of the possible confusion with other parts of the verb, that should certainly go in Infinitive, and it might be useful here too. —JerryFriedman (Talk) 00:13, 31 July 2009 (UTC)

"To pitied be" not a split infinitive[edit]

I moved the following text out of the article, where it was after the claim that "Thy pity may deserve to pitied be" was Shakespeare's only split infinitive:

[Note: inverted word order, yes, but not a split infinitive, since it is the passive form of the verb "to pity," that is, "to be pitied," whose word order is inverted to the poet's purpose: "to pitied be."]

JerryFriedman (Talk) 16:15, 4 January 2010 (UTC)

Yes, you were right to remove that. Split infinitive is a traditional grammatical term, not a syntactic one. Syntacticians might analyse the phrase "to be pitied" differently, but traditional grammar sees it as the infinitive of the auxiliary verb used with the participle to create a passive infinitive, i.e. "to be" is still an infinitive word-pair, and if anything else comes between them, it is a split infinitive. It is a very odd one, but that is commented on further down the article. --Doric Loon (talk) 17:03, 4 January 2010 (UTC)
Also, at least some modern grammars treat it that way—for example, the Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, p. 106, calls the past participle the "next verb" after the auxiliary be. (I read the CGEL by searching it at Amazon.)
As I recall, Fowler devotes some space to explaining why expressions such as to have thoroughly searched aren't split infinitives, so he doesn't regard an auxiliary plus a main verb as a single verb.
I've added a reference to the article that calls "to pitied be" a split infinitive. I don't know of any sources that disagree. —JerryFriedman (Talk) 17:23, 4 January 2010 (UTC)

To have thoroughly searched is not a split infinitive. But to thoroughly have searched is. --Doric Loon (talk) 21:22, 4 January 2010 (UTC)

Apologies - I inadvertently resurrected this debate with my edit a few days ago, without checking the talk page. However, I do agree with whoever posted the [Note] that Jerry originally deleted - the original verb is not 'to be', but 'to be pitied', and in inverting this Shakespeare has not introduced a split infinitive. Maybe that's just Latinist prejudice on my part - if Doric or anyone feels strongly about it I don't mind if they want to revert it. What do you think? Drjamesaustin (talk) 11:12, 21 September 2010 (UTC)

In addition to the source in the article and the CGEL mentioned above, the Fowler brothers denied (without giving a reason) that to be fatally wounded was a split infinitive, so I think there's a lot of agreement that to be pitied isn't a single verb. So I'm going to revert the change. If there's a source for the idea that this construction is a reversed two-word verb, it could be noted in the article. (Of course, we can only guess why Shakespeare didn't use split infinitives in general and did permit himself this construction—maybe in his mind they were different.) —JerryFriedman (Talk) 23:07, 21 September 2010 (UTC)
That's fine with me. I can cite no references to back up my interpretation - merely my Latin-influenced view of grammar - so will gladly bow to higher authority. Thanks Jerry! Drjamesaustin (talk) 08:34, 22 September 2010 (UTC)

Weasel words[edit]

This article has a "weasel words" tag, and I see it has just been marked down on the quality scale because of that. However, the person who added this tag (User:Marcus Brute) gave no explanation, and reading the article I cannot see any weasel words. It seems to me to be a very scholarly article, making specific statements rather than vague ones, and documenting these with lots of scholarly references. But of course I wrote large chunks of it, so I could be blind to something. But I can't improve it without guidance. What is the correct procedure here? If I just remove the tag without improving anything, that surely breaks rules, but the onus does not seem to be on the tagger to take the thing any further. Does that mean that we are stuck with such a tag permanently? --Doric Loon (talk) 12:07, 6 January 2010 (UTC)

Well, I think there are quite a few "weasel words", like "several", "usually", "most", "slightly odd", "appears to be", "very", "presumably" etc. However, the question is not whether these words should be used per se, but whether these words are justifiable. If you think they are justifiable, and accurately reflect expert opinion, then in my opinion you should remove the tag. Tags should not be left on articles if they do not apply. However, if the tag is replaced and the tagger does not provide more specific guidance on his or her concern, then I think you should approach them directly and ask for more information. They may be willing to remove the tag themselves if you explain any contentious points. DrKiernan (talk) 14:49, 7 January 2010 (UTC)

Thank you. That's helpful. --Doric Loon (talk) 20:32, 7 January 2010 (UTC)

I made some wording changes under the "Argument from Classical Languages" section:
  • Removed the wording that the "link to Latin" is "not found in any of the major statments of the position." Without defining "major statements," I don't have a good frame of reference as to what Wikipedia would consider a "major statement." I could be wrong. I know that under WP:V and WP:RS, books from university presses are considered second in reliability only to peer-reviewed journal articles. I added a statement from the Martin Cutt's, Oxford Guide to Plain English, published by the Oxford University Press that links the two. Unless I'm mistaken, Wikipedia doens't identify criteria for "major statements." This could be added back in if some framework was added in to give it some context. It appears to push a POV though.
  • I deleted the sentence, "Of the writers cited here (and the many others consulted) who ascribe the split-infinitive prohibition to Latinism, none cite a source." Again, that is not a criteria that increases or decreases the reliability of a source here on Wikipedia. There are plenty of sources that are reliable as "stand alone" authorities that do not need to cite sources. As editors, we cannot make a judgement on which authors merit that consideration, and which authors should list a source because their reliability could be in question otherwise. If I'm missing something, let me know.
These were good faith edits. I don't have a position either way on this topic. I know a bit more about it than your average English-speaker, but I don't have a POV to push. Thus, my edits here are intended to make the article better. There is certainly room to add the ideas back in revised forms as noted above, but that should be done very carefully. If we, as editors, present the information listed in sources, that should be able to stand alone (assuming we did a good job). We must be careful about taking positions. Throwing question on the reliability of sources that are otherwise considered reliable under WP:RS should not be done by editors at Wikipedia. Airborne84 (talk) 02:03, 25 April 2010 (UTC)

By major statements we meant those cited further up the article. I thought that shorthand was OK, but perhaps you can make it clearer without the sentence becoming clumsy. On the second point, the problem is not that a particular authority doesn't cite a source, but that NOBODY can find a source. You are welcome to try to find other ways of saying this, but don't let's lose the main point: those who don't encourage the SI have been accused of using a faulty Latin-based logic, but the big proponents of their view in the 19th century debate never used this logic, nor has any reputable linguist since, and yet the other side continues to make the accusation without citing sources. We have to expose that. This is not POV, since we have pinned it down to facts; it is not OR, since we have ourselves cited sources; and I don't think we're being weaselly, since we are actually stating the problem fairly strongly. It is fair enough to say these things. But please do try to find ways of saying them better. --Doric Loon (talk) 20:31, 25 April 2010 (UTC)

OK, I'll look at it again in a day or two. I should mention that I considered the points you made, and I understand the logic. The issue regarding that statement is that it gives the appearance of POV. I'll give the rest of the article a closer look, as I didn't read the entire thing carefully. Maybe it simply merits an endnote that explains the logic behind that particular statement. Airborne84 (talk) 03:58, 26 April 2010 (UTC)
I took a crack at clarifying what's there. —JerryFriedman (Talk) 17:54, 26 April 2010 (UTC)
I like it. Airborne84 (talk) 20:40, 26 April 2010 (UTC)
Thanks for bringing this up and looking at the change. —JerryFriedman (Talk) 17:24, 28 April 2010 (UTC)

I have no problem with the wording in this article and I do not believe it deserves the "weasel word" tag. Should others agree with me, I'll gladly bell the cat. HiTechHiTouch (talk) 01:33, 23 January 2011 (UTC)

I have now removed the weasel tag. I think this thread makes clear that nobody has a real issue at the moment. --Doric Loon (talk) 12:17, 23 January 2011 (UTC)

Is it not true, however, that Quackenbos, who is cited above, and who wrote in the 19th century, made this argument? "To have is as much one thing and as inseparable by modifiers as the original form habban or the Latin habere. Philology condemns the split infinitive to greatly love as much as it would am bene are in Latin." Seems pretty clear that some 19th century rhetoricians used this argument. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 140.147.175.117 (talk) 15:01, 11 April 2016 (UTC)

RE: the particle matter[edit]

I wouldn't dare to tamper directly with the article, as I am not a linguist. But I urge that my ideas at least be considered in earnest.

I am a proponent of particles, eh.

But I don't see how the particle argument for "to (verb)" is sustainable under any kind of diligent scrutiny.

Please consider which of these sentences is more representative of nonstandard usage:

1) "I constructed this sentence for to demonstrate my point."

2) "I constructed this sentence to demonstrate my point." (as used as if equal to) "I constructed this sentence in order to demonstrate my point."

If "to" in "to demonstrate" is closer in nature to a particle than to a preposition, then why is the "for" considered to be out of place, and why is there effectively no difference in meaning when "in order" is omitted?

I realize that there is a vague shift from the idea of "this sentence (is) to demonstrate" towards the idea of "I constructed in order to demonstrate".

Yeah... whatever.

I'm just saying that the particle explanation is not any less problematic, and that anyone who says that "splitting" a particle construction automatically creates some kind of a problem can't possibly have any familiarity with languages like Mandarin Chinese.

Or I'm wrong about this?

OK... how?

- Joshua Clement Broyles —Preceding unsigned comment added by 190.25.46.154 (talk) 02:01, 27 October 2010 (UTC)

Sorry, I don't follow. Are you using some particular (no pun intended) definition of "particle"? I believe different grammarians use the word in somewhat different senses.
Does "the particle argument for 'to (verb)'" mean the argument that "to" in such constructions is a particle? I don't think the article contains such an argument, though it does follow some grammarians in using the term. In this case I take it to mean "a miscellaneous short function word".
I also don't see an argument in the article that splitting particle constructions necessarily creates a problem.
Now that you mention it, though, the quotation from Alford about "the to of the infinitive" may not summarize the "argument from the full infinitive" the way the article says it does. —JerryFriedman (Talk) 16:23, 27 October 2010 (UTC)

Except of course that Alford was writing in the 19th century, so for understanding him only traditional grammar is relevant, not more recent analyses. I don't know whether he would have called the "to" a preposition or an infinitive marker or a particle, probably he would not have had a term for it at all, but he would certainly have regarded it as part of a full infinitive.

Joshua, please remember that our article is not arguing for anything; we just report the analysis of others, and grammarians have analyzed this in many different ways. --Doric Loon (talk) 09:11, 28 October 2010 (UTC)

Removed text on "to not want" etc.[edit]

I removed this unsourced text, as it looks like original research to me:

Accuracy in negation by splitting the infinitive can be shown by this retort:

I did not want to see her: I craved to see her.

Here, the retort revolves around whether the negation is of wanting or seeing. The poetic ambiguity collapses into confusion if you were to rephrase this as

I wanted to not see her: I craved to see her.

In this construction, there is no ambiguity to poetically play with because the negation is only of seeing.

Note that negation can also be constructed to comply with the convention in a way that shows how sometimes not splitting the infinitive is actually required for accurate meaning: eg

I wanted not to see her but to hear her.

This is not the same as

I wanted to not see her but to hear her.
The desire was not "not seeing her" but simply "hearing her".

I added a citation to the previous paragraph. The first argument—that "I did not want to see her" is ambiguous and "I wanted to not see her" isn't—makes sense to me, and I wouldn't mind a sourced version, especially one that includes "I wanted not to see her" (or something similar). I don't follow the second point, about "I wanted not to see her but to hear her." —JerryFriedman (Talk) 00:36, 1 November 2010 (UTC)


I would like to add my two cents on the use of the split infinitive with "not". I looked up this page because I am working on a sentence like this: "The idea was to not kill him; he had to be taken alive." To me it seems that "The idea was not to kill him; he had to be taken alive" does not say the same thing at all. This second construction would be more in keeping with "The idea was not to kill him; his death was an accident." 200.162.246.191 (talk) 13:10, 14 September 2011 (UTC)

Sources for style guides[edit]

The three guides currently listed are all guides of American English. I am not a linguist, so cannot claim any expertise on the matter, however I am aware that different dialects of English have different preferences; hence the overall richness of the language as a whole.

Could someone with a better understanding of linguistics and the associated guides include the views on split infinitive in a broader scope of English speakers? For instance, what are the rules in English English? —Preceding unsigned comment added by 80.6.35.235 (talk) 22:47, 14 November 2010 (UTC)

Avoiding Split Infinitives - The Teddy Bear Example[edit]

I am by no means an English language expert, but it seems to me that an alternative (that isn't suggested) to using a split infinitive would be: "She decided to get rid of, gradually, the teddy bears she had collected."

It may be that I'm way off the mark. If so, could someone explain why this isn't an acceptable solution? Aquamonkey (talk) 02:56, 27 December 2010 (UTC)

I personally find it a little clumsy, but sure, it communicates, and it avoids splitting. I think, though, it is an example of what Fowler meant when he said "it is to no avail..." --Doric Loon (talk) 22:19, 31 December 2010 (UTC)
I agree that it's not aesthetically pleasing, but it does circumvent the issue at hand (that "moving the adverbial creates an ungrammatical sentence or changes the meaning"); it might be worthwhile to mention that use of punctuation is another way to 'solve' split infinitives of this sort. Do you think it's a point that should be made in the article? Aquamonkey (talk) 05:37, 2 January 2011 (UTC)
To be honest, I don't think it's a convincing enough example to be worth extending the article with it. Sorry. If you can find a more natural example where commas are a significant factor then I suppose it could be mentioned, but let's not go looking for new things to say - the existing debate is complex enough, and I am quite content to report what is already out there. --Doric Loon (talk) 12:19, 2 January 2011 (UTC)

Non-Neutral POV[edit]

"As a result, the debate took on a degree of passion which the bare facts of the matter never warranted." This *definitely* does not sound neutral to me. Suggest sentence rewrite.

I agree. Be bold! —JerryFriedman (Talk) 18:50, 17 February 2011 (UTC)

Hear me out...[edit]

Split infinitives are absolutely never acceptable as any grammarian would tell you. The idea that they are acceptable in some contexts or that this is a controversial issue among grammarians is simply a common misconception. For a reliable source, just ask any English Professor or even any K12 English teacher. The Mysterious El Willstro (talk) 05:07, 10 March 2011 (UTC)

You are entitled to your usage. You'll be very lucky indeed if you can find a university teacher of English who agrees with you, but K12 teacher might just be possible. Good luck with that. --Doric Loon (talk) 20:23, 10 March 2011 (UTC)
1. Do you mean that K12 English teachers are overly dogmatic when it comes to grammar?
2. I already heard this confirmed by an English/Creative Writing Major who must have heard it from one of her Professors. She graduated since then, but I could send her a Link to this Talk Page if her contributions might be of assistance here. The Mysterious El Willstro (talk) 04:51, 11 March 2011 (UTC)
If she'd like to contribute information with reliable published sources to the article, she's welcome to.
It is possible to find professors' Web pages that tell their students not to split infinitives. Maybe not English professors, though. Neither Doric Loon nor I knows of any peer-reviewed book or article on grammar or usage published in the last several decades that says split infinitives are unacceptable. One like that would be especially welcome, though of course readers will draw conclusions from the far larger number that accept split infinitives. —JerryFriedman (Talk) 05:42, 11 March 2011 (UTC)
I sent her a Link on Facebook in case she might be interested. The Mysterious El Willstro (talk) 08:21, 12 March 2011 (UTC)
The whole of English language is a "common misconception" of Latin/German/Celtic etc people mixing up rules and getting confused by using word from other languages. QuentinUK (talk) 17:46, 20 March 2011 (UTC)
It may have started out that way, but now it's a fully codified language with its very own rules of grammar.
In fact, all languages started out something like that at some point. Latin, for instance, started out as a "pigeon dialect" of Etruscan and Proto-Italic. By the start of the Republic Age, however, it was codified as a distinct language. More recently, the Rommance Languages all took most of their rules and words from Latin, but none of them came entirely from Latin. They all have minor "loans" in rules or words from elsewhere, hence how some of them lack neuter nouns even though Latin itself has them for instance. The Mysterious El Willstro (talk) 05:55, 22 March 2011 (UTC)
Wikipedia is not a forum.
The following discussion has been closed. Please do not modify it.

As George Orwell once said - break any of these rules rather than say something downright barbarous. When a politician - it's usually one of them- proceeds to stretch tolerance off split infinitives by claiming he/she is aiming to "better understand x" or "better bring about y" a rule isn't being broken, but something completely silly is being said. "To better" is an infinitive in itself. It's surely a bit worse than paradoxical, or transformational, to split an infinitive by using another infinitive to do it. It's pompous as well as barbarous. Why has it caught on?Croy379 (talk) 22:18, 3 April 2011 (UTC)

I've noticed that trend too, especially in "to better serve you" instead of "to serve you better" in advertising. A good place to discuss such things is the newsgroup alt.usage.english, and there are many other forums on English usage. —JerryFriedman (Talk) 00:11, 4 April 2011 (UTC)

In these examples, "better" is an adverb. You get it as a verb in "he tried hard to better himself", but that's not what your example is doing. But as JerryFriedman implied, this is not the place to muse on such things, unless it is relevant for what goes in the article. --Doric Loon (talk) 09:03, 4 April 2011 (UTC)

English was invented in America, later exported to the colony, England[edit]

If any joke were needed about how US-of-A-centric Wikipedia is, this article must be the supreme example.

The bulk of the article cites (US) American sources, lines of reasoning, origins to define this linguistic example of *English* usage.

I expect many Americans grow up believing that 'British English' is a corruption of the American original, even as they practise 'verbing their nouns', just as they grow up believing that the Enigma code was cracked by Americans, as explained by that authoritative historical authority: Hollywood.

If any article needs a root-and-branch rewrite, this is it. Unless, of course, Wikipedia is intended as a US-centric work of semi-fiction. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 86.179.113.26 (talk) 01:27, 15 June 2011 (UTC)

Well, I'm British, and I think I've had a fairly heavy input into this article. The examples cited are from both sides of the Atlantic, so I don't think there's any systematic bias, and I doubt if more British cites would change the shape of the content very much. What is true is that the article does not go into the question of whether there are (or historically have been) BE/AE differences in usage. That is probably because we have not become aware of any rigorous linguistic research which provides any insights there, and we are not going to fill the article with our own guesses. But if you can find such research, a new section on British versus American usage is possible. --Doric Loon (talk) 13:29, 1 November 2011 (UTC)
If you think the article has too many examples of American uses of English, then the solution is to add more exampled of British usage. Both American and British usage of English are in fact English. If Wikipedia should not be the USAPedia, it should not be the UKPedia either.--RLent (talk) 20:23, 23 November 2011 (UTC).

Errrr, wrong! The language is called ENGLISH for a reason. Should an article on US History be about the UK? No. Then an article about usage in the English language should, primarily, be about our version of it.

Completely agree with the original author of this point. As an Englishman, I found it increasingly annoying to be cited examples which derived from the American bastardisation of our language. I have no problem with Americans calling their language 'American English', but this should be recognised as distinct from our language and any grammatical constructions which they have chosen to incorporate into their language has no relevance to an analysis of ours! Split infinitives are still frowned upon in common English usage. Almost all of the examples cited in this article would actually sound better, in common usage terms, without the infinitives being split.

As the article shows, split infinitives originated in Britain, and the first known objection to them was in America. If you know or can find any sources showing that they're now less widely accepted in Britain than in America, please mention them here, or better, add them to the article. —JerryFriedman (Talk) 20:07, 16 January 2013 (UTC)

A Better Shakespeare Example and Misinformation in Moriarty Section[edit]

Wow... such a pedantic page that contain so many bits of misinformation about history. I don't know where to start.

Well, I'll mention two things that really stick out:

(1) Shakespeare split more than one infinitive. And for all those arguing about the validity of the one cited in this article, try on this quotation from Coriolanus, Act I, Scene ii, lines 4-6 (in the words of Aufidius):

"What ever have been thought on in this state / That could be brought to bodily act ere Rome / Had circumvention?"

No getting around that one. Captain Kirk would be proud. I have no idea how so many pedantic people who are clearly invested in this article got the idea that there is only one split infinitive in Shakespeare and that it can be "excused."

(2) The whole business about the Latin source is a bit POV. It sounds like a "gotcha" section -- "look at all these silly professional linguists making stuff up." We even have a nice Moriarty quotation just to show how stupid these people are. I'm not going to defend Moriarty directly, since I haven't looked at the larger context of the passage. But things in the article go off a bit here: "The argument implies an adherence to the humanist idea of the greater purity of the classics, which particularly in Renaissance times led people to regard aspects of English which differed from Latin as inferior. However by the 19th century such views were no longer widespread; Moriarty is in error about the age of the prohibition."

Okay, Moriarty *may* be in error, if we assume she mean that the prohibition dates to the Renaissance, which isn't actually stated in the quotation that is given from her. HOWEVER, all the business about what happened "by the 19th century" overlooks the HUGE classical revival of the mid to late 1800s. Latin had really died as the primary language of intellectual Europe by the mid-1700s, so by the mid-1800s, there was a strong resurgence in certain circles, looking for an even "purer" form of classical Latin and Greek (following the etymological studies looking for proto-indo-European roots, etc.). A LOT of the crazy prescriptivist grammar ideas taken from Latin and forced onto English date FROM THIS ERA, not the Renaissance, since the scholars of this time were also superimposing rules on ancient Latin and Greek themselves that didn't really exist in ancient times. That's what one can do once a language is really dead, as it pretty much was after 1800 except in certain religious communities.

Does this mean that the split infinitive rule came from such a classicist resurgence? I don't know. The whole business about "to" being "inseparable" from the rest of the verb is a bit weird, and one possible source for that sort of opinion may have been study of classical languages. The fact is that historians of linguistics don't know where this "inseparable" business came from, but the guess that it had something to do with Latin or Greek is probably as good as any other theory. I don't know why we summarily condemn Moriarty and many other high-profile linguistics folks, yet offer other theories about connections to German or 19th-century descriptivism that weren't EXPLICITLY mentioned by 19th century sources either. So why do we allow them, but condemn the classical languages argument? Because somebody named Moriarty implied a connection to the Renaissance? The fact is, as the article notes, split infinitives did decrease around the Renaissance. Then they increased again. And then 19th century folks (during a serious revival of classical studies where the grammar of ancient languages -- and modern ones -- was codified as never before) started prohibiting it again.

I don't know what the source is, but to cite one source in a misleading way as a straw man to trash it, to cite a bunch of prominent linguists just to say they are in error, and then to give other theories that are not bashed, but which are not found in the historical record either... well, it's all a bit POV.

Don't tell me to "be bold" -- I long ago gave up contributing to Wikipedia. I just wanted to note how ignorant this article sounds to people who actually study history and languages in it. 76.119.236.172 (talk) 17:21, 11 September 2011 (UTC)

By the way, a 5-minute search of Google books (actual primary sources from the 19th century on Google books) already has unearthed for me at least a couple references of grammarians in the 1890s connecting the issue of the split infinitive with Latin. Nothing in a very prominent source, but since the very term "split infinitive" only came to exist in the 1890s, it's more difficult to search earlier sources. Thus, the statement in the article that the Latin connection "is not found in any statements of the position from the 19th or early 20th century, when the prohibition developed" is false on its face. In fact, scrolling back to archived talk pages here, it seems that many parts of this section (especially its summary statements and conclusions) may be a violation of WP:OR. 76.119.236.172 (talk) 18:04, 11 September 2011 (UTC)
More than WP:OR, any claim that infinitive splitting wasn't contraindicated by the mid 19th century is contradictory with the rest of the article, and all the common sources that describe the rise of this rule. That should be corrected. I just wanted to add a thought to the points raised by 76.119.236.172... although everything 76.119.236.172 writes is correct, we shouldn't forget that experts in linguist history probably won't be researching their latest papers here. If this article enlightens the general reader then it has done 99% of its job. The typical reader will be happy with the definition & the knowledge that a lot of famous writers knowingly split their infinitives. Tone & accuracy are certainly worth improving, but don't lose sight of the fact that a more common reaction than 'come on! Shakespeare used this split infinitive' is 'Split infinitives are absolutely never acceptable...' (from The Mysterious El Willstro, talk section above) --Wragge (talk) 18:28, 11 September 2011 (UTC)
Oh, I know the two main points I made seem to be quibbles, but this is an article about quibbles -- an article that makes a big deal out of the fact that there is only ONE Shakespearean split infinitive, an article that likes to take erudite people to task for the apparently silly idea that a grammatical change that happened in the past might have something to do with Latin, during a period when people were paying unusual attention to grammar in that language (and all others). While scholars may not be researching minutia here (though they might start here), that does not change the fact that there is a lot of minutia in the article. And, all I'm saying is -- if you're going to have an article with a high proportion of minutia, it should at least be somewhat accurate... because the audience who *will* read this article (mostly people who aren't scholars but who are interested in arguing about grammar) will want to use these points as ammunition in their personal debates. To me, as someone who doesn't really care one way or another about this issue (but who realizes how important it is to some people), the article reads almost like what one would expect in a political article on abortion or gay marriage or something -- lots of little bits of facts mustered so each side can score a little historical or scholarly point here or there, and a lot of overly broad conclusions based on readings of primary or secondary sources with an agenda in mind. The article isn't bad, but it aspires to a level of fussiness in detail along with broad conclusions that clearly borders on WP:OR in a lot of places. Do with that what you will. 76.119.236.172 (talk) 00:32, 12 September 2011 (UTC)
I don't have much time now, but to save anyone else a little trouble, I did find this passage from one Quackenbos arguing from the analogy to Latin. That will improve the article, so thanks, 76.119.236.172. As you'd expect, that wasn't on GB the last time I looked. Would you mind mentioning the other one or others you found?
The Coriolanus quotation is controversial—some interpret "act" as a noun and "bodily" as an adjective. It probably should be in the article, though, at least in parentheses or as a footnote, as there are citations about whether it's a split infinitive. (I would have done it when I came across this reference, but I was sloppy and didn't note the quotation or even the play, and then I couldn't find it because I thought it was from Julius Caesar.)
I am certain that "act" in the Coriolanus quotation is a noun. Seadowns (talk) 16:45, 20 January 2018 (UTC)
The article cites the claim that the earliest known condemnations are based on their authors' perceptions of usage in their time. If you know other early condemnations or can find other reasons in the ones in the article, that would be a big help. As would any further criticisms of specific places in the article. Comments about the way the article reads overall are less helpful, at least to me, though I do take them seriously. More later. —JerryFriedman (Talk) 16:36, 12 September 2011 (UTC)
My GB search didn't turn up anything but Quackenbos. Any others? I added that quotation, but it needs to be integrated better with the "argument from classical languages" section, and the whole thing needs a reorg, in my opinion. —JerryFriedman (Talk) 18:25, 13 September 2011 (UTC)
I don't think the article as it stands is making much of there only being one Shakespeare quote, and if in fact there are more we would want to add them and it wouldn't really change the article in any other way. In particular, the article is not suggesting the split infinitive is wrong, or Shakespeare's has to be "excused". So I think that is a very strange criticism.
I always did feel that Moriaty is too unimportant to be highlighted. But she is not a straw man - she is in there as an example of a very common error.
You are confusing two very different things in what you say about Latin and German. When the article talks about Latin, it is talking about the origins of the prohibition. When it talks about English in the context of Germanic language history, it is talking about the origins of the construction itself.
The article does not say that no-one in the 19th century used the Latin argument. It says that none of the 19th-century guys cited further up the article as having started the prohibition used the argument. That remains correct.
So I don't think you have identified any errors in the article, apart from missing the Coriolanus example, if it is one. --Doric Loon (talk) 23:08, 13 September 2011 (UTC)
I do think there's a problem with suggesting that unsupported speculation about Latinism is folklore, but offering an uncited speculation about French influence. —JerryFriedman (Talk) 14:51, 14 September 2011 (UTC)
When you put it that way... I've heard that French thing before, so I don't think it's OR, but it does need a source. Would you want to delete if we can't find one soon? --Doric Loon (talk) 20:09, 14 September 2011 (UTC)
I would. I looked for a source in GB a year or two ago, and the only thing I found referenced this article! If we can't find anything better soon, I think it's time for that and other unsourced material to go. —JerryFriedman (Talk) 22:39, 14 September 2011 (UTC)

Rephrase[edit]

Let me rephrase something I said before. Namely, the Article should reclassify the split infinitive as a grammatical error rather than simply a "construction" as it says at the moment. I know it's very common in advertising, and Star Trek uses it in that one opening line. The fact remains, however, that split infinitives are the kind of thing, together with prepositional endings, that students (be they schoolchildren or those of us in higher education) tend to lose points for on a report. The Mysterious El Willstro (talk) 07:35, 1 November 2011 (UTC)

But this is precisely what the sources cited in the article disprove. The most widely respected current commentators on language use do NOT think it is an error. What some of them do say is that it can be colloquial, and you are right that students might get red ink under it if they put it in a report - my own students certainly might, though it would depend how clumsy it was. But today that is seen as inappropriate register for formal writing, not as an error per se. We come back to the challenge you were presented with before: find sources for your opinion, and we'll talk. --Doric Loon (talk) 13:20, 1 November 2011 (UTC)
The cited sources "prove" nothing because English is not a prescriptivist language. There are no appointed institutions enforcing consistent usage rules on English-speaking populations. Until such institutions exist and can dictate grammatical conventions in an official capacity, all sides to this discussion are based in POV only.
With all the bizarre and mutually-exclusive ways English grammar can be practiced from one culture to the next, it's a very fortuitous coincidence that English speakers can even understand one another in the first place. 98.86.116.7 (talk) 23:45, 19 May 2013 (UTC)

Deleting Old French theory[edit]

I have just deleted the paragraph on the theory of Old French origins. (Sorry, I forgot to put an edit summary, but the explanation is here.) I actually wrote this section, based on my memory of things I had read, but I have never found a source and as we discussed above a couple of months back, without a source the section ought to go. I am copying it here, for the record, and because I think it's still interesting, and it can go back in if somebody finds the necessary citations. Here is the deleted text:

Lastly, historical linguists have speculated that its origins may lie in Old French[citation needed]. The split infinitive seems to have appeared after the Norman Conquest, when English came into contact with Old French. It is not found in other Germanic languages, except modern Swedish, in which it is an independent development[citation needed]; German still does not permit an adverb to fall between an infinitive and its particle (preposition). However, a construction which is similar, at least superficially, can be found in French and other Romance languages. Compare modern German, French, and English:
Ich beschließe, etwas nicht zu tun.
I decide not to do something.
Je décide de ne pas faire quelque chose.
I decide to not do something.
Thus it might be argued that the English split infinitive ("I decide to not do something") may have arisen under the influence of French. However, grammarians of the Romance languages do not use the term "split infinitive" to describe the phenomenon in those languages, since there the preposition is not considered a part of the infinitive form, and despite the surface-level similarity there are significant syntactical differences between the English and French constructions.

--Doric Loon (talk) 13:37, 1 November 2011 (UTC)

As I said before, I think that as things stand, taking out that paragraph improves the article, so I'm glad you did it. But it would be good to find a source when possible. —JerryFriedman (Talk) 22:23, 1 November 2011 (UTC)
User Wran has twice reinstated this, obviously in good faith. I suspect he thought my deletion was ill considered or vandalism. That is my fault - I forgot to give the deletion an edit summary first time round. It was me who originally wrote this section, and early on I defended it when it was challenged, but over half a decade I have failed to find sources confirming what I thought I knew, and I have come round to the view that we can't sustain the claim, so I have deleted it myself. I am delighted that Wran thinks it's useful material: he obviously has the same instinct I have. If he can prove to us that it is more than instinct, I will be very happy indeed. --Doric Loon (talk) 19:34, 4 November 2011 (UTC)

Popular culture section[edit]

Is this now getting overrun with WP:TRIVIA? I'm suggesting a heavy trim but, as I'm not a contributor with a close knowledge of the topic, I'm asking for other users' views. --Old Moonraker (talk) 08:14, 8 May 2012 (UTC)

Class and Wiki Project[edit]

This is a very thorough and informative article. It was reduced from FA; why is it not classified as GA or otherwise. It seems odd for an article of this quality to needlessly be left uncategorized. Perhaps Wikipedia:WikiProject Linguistics would be a reasonable fit due to the distinction between prescriptive and descriptive grammar. What would someone rate this article? I would assume it would need to be B class unless it went through a GA review.184.94.226.18 (talk) 19:34, 26 July 2012 (UTC) (User:Ryan Vesey)

I'll expand on this with a comment, the article says

She gradually got rid of her teddy bears. and She will gradually get rid of her teddy bears.

one may, by analogy, wish to say:

She wants to gradually get rid of her teddy bears.

Could one not also say, She wants to get rid of her teddy bears gradually?184.94.226.18 (talk) 19:38, 26 July 2012 (UTC)
Good point on the project. I brought it up at WP:Linguistics. I don't know why I never thought of it. —JerryFriedman (Talk) 21:33, 26 July 2012 (UTC)
I've got a bit of experience in linguistics, not much, but I can help make any fixes pointed out to get it to GA or possibly FA status. Ryan Vesey Review me! 23:01, 26 July 2012 (UTC)

No spit infinitive in presidential oath of office[edit]

The section “Famous Split Infinitives” contained a paragraph saying “The oath of office of the President of the United States includes the text ‘to faithfully execute.’” This is factually incorrect: the language of the oath, as specified in the U. S. Constitution, actually says “I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States...” There is no split infinitive; I have removed the paragraph. Dodiad (talk) 23:46, 1 March 2013 (UTC)

I agree with this deletion. I'm glad to see it gone, as I always thought it much too speculative. However in fairness to Wragge, who added this on 19 Feb 2009, what he actually wrote was: Steven Pinker traced Chief Justice Roberts' 2009 presidential inauguration oath recitation error to the "shibboleth" against "split verbs", particularly the "myth" that it is "impossible to split an infinitive". Somebody quite recently though that should be clarified and added a wrong explanation. What Wragge (Pinker) was saying was that a schooling which makes somebody allergic to "to faithfully execute" can cause them to stumble over "will faithfully execute". That IS a plausible explanation of what happened, especially if you compare it with our example from transformational grammar further up the article. But I'm not sure it is really helpful here. --Doric Loon (talk) 08:36, 2 March 2013 (UTC)

So it is supposedly impossible to truly split an infinitive? 68.37.254.48 (talk) 04:32, 14 October 2013 (UTC)

“A split infinitive is an English-language grammatical construction”?[edit]

Is it just me, or is this definition in the very first sentence in the article somewhat too restrictive? Split infinitives are not unique to English (though I don’t know of any other language that’s made such a kerfuffle about them). The Norse languages (Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Faeroese, and Icelandic) all have split infinitives as well.

Should the article not rather say that, “a split infinitive is a grammatical construction found in some languages, including English”, And preferably also give a few examples of split infinitives in some of these other languages? Kokoshneta (talk) 17:34, 12 April 2013 (UTC)

The article does mention the Scandinavian languages further down. But I am not sure that it is appropriate to lump them under this term, unless linguists working on those languages use it. I have heard the term used to describe a parallel construction in French, but French specialists complained that this is Anglo-Saxon colonial thinking, and that English analysis should not be imported into French. Before you add anything about Swedish, we need to know that that will not be met with a similar objection. --Doric Loon (talk) 21:55, 30 June 2013 (UTC)

Please say more about "to not VERB"[edit]

Please say more about "to not VERB" construct, especially whether it is valid or invalid. VictorPorton (talk) 19:38, 30 June 2013 (UTC)

I think the article already makes clear that there is no question of the construction being "invalid", but that some people don't like the example with "not". If you are looking for advice, I would say don't use it unless you don't care that some readers will think it's ugly. But if you like it, don't let anyone tell you it's forbidden. --Doric Loon (talk) 21:58, 30 June 2013 (UTC)


The article's own opinion[edit]

The article as of right now presents three places (other than the examples, of course) where there was an opportunity to split an infinitive. In not one of them was it split:

  • "seems not to have attracted"
  • "should not always be split"
  • "careful not to produce"

Many people have edited the article, but no one edited these to split the infinitives.

It's clear that, consciously-adopted relativist cant aside, the consensus of Wikipedians does not in fact approve of the split infinitive.… — Preceding unsigned comment added by 24.136.6.157 (talk) 16:49, 24 July 2013 (UTC)

Your second example doesn't contain a "to" + infinitive, so there was no opportunity to split an infinitive.
You can't draw any conclusions about "the consensus of Wikipedians" from this article. Many people have edited it, maybe five or ten substantively, but undoubtedly the vast majority of Wikipedians (over a million, I believe) have never looked at it.
As the article points out, split infinitives with "not" and other negatives are especially rare. A little "original research": the Corpus of Contemporary American English has 70,983 examples of "not to [infinitive]" and 3,348 examples of "to not [infinitive]". It's no surprise that no one has written a "to not" in this article. I can't speak for anyone else, but some split infinitives are natural for me; however, I very seldom split infinitives with "not". I don't remember whether I wrote the current version of those phrases, but I'm pretty much incapable of writing "seems to not have attracted" or "careful to not produce" (except as examples). I believe that if the article contained those phrases, they would look contrived.
Most of the "relativistic" comments in the article are taken from authorities in the field, as they should be. Some of them happen to agree with my opinions, but not all. They are in no sense "consciously-adopted relativistic cant" on my part, at least, and suggesting they are isn't in keeping with Wikipedia's policies on civility and assuming good faith—which I'm totally in favor of. —JerryFriedman (Talk) 04:19, 25 July 2013 (UTC)

On the presented example[edit]

She decided to get gradually rid of the teddy bears she had collected.
Why is that described as awkward and unwieldy? It has a natural flow to it, or hasn't it? Why should "get rid of" need to stick together? Maybe, though, it's because I am German that I have no problem to say, for instance, "every Sunday Peter went with his wife, three children and elderly parents for three hours for a walk."--217.251.74.227 (talk) 16:44, 11 August 2013 (UTC)

Tut mir Leid, but I think it really is because you're German. --Doric Loon (talk) 12:46, 12 August 2013 (UTC)


She decided to get rid, gradually, of the teddy bears she had collected.

See, some people have forgotten the potential of commas. 68.37.254.48 (talk) 04:27, 14 October 2013 (UTC)

Maybe some people—such as Larry Trask, who invented that example—disagree with you on the potential of commas. To me it doesn't sound quite as bad with the commas, but it still sounds pretty bad. —JerryFriedman (Talk) 18:19, 15 October 2013 (UTC)

She decided to, gradually, get rid of the teddy bears...

Is it considered a split infinitive if you include the commas with the adverb?68.37.254.48 (talk) 04:30, 14 October 2013 (UTC)

Yes. The definitions in the article, and all others that I've seen, don't mention commas, which I take to mean that the commas don't matter to whether it's a split infinitive. —JerryFriedman (Talk) 18:19, 15 October 2013 (UTC)

Referring to other Wikipedia articles[edit]

There are only two other 'See also' bullets and the second one seems to be a joke "Split Infinity" which goes to a book series article Apprentice_AdeptCharles Edwin Shipp (talk) 04:03, 7 December 2013 (UTC)

Sorry to take so long. Wikipedia:Manual_of_Style/Layout#See_also_section says that articles don't need "See also" links; some featured articles don't have any. I agree with that. So I don't think a short "See also" section is a problem, but if anything should be added, that's fine.
I don't believe that link to the Piers Anthony books is a joke. It's more that the reader might be interested to know that there's an sf series whose first volume's title is a play on "split infinitive". Maybe it should go in the "Popular Culture" section. —JerryFriedman (Talk) 22:30, 14 April 2014 (UTC)

So aside from grammatical snobbery, whats wrong with it?[edit]

I was surprised that there were no examples of how you'd otherwise write those sentences in such a way that would still convey the same meaning without the split infinitive. I mean it is written in such a way that its use sounds problematic but there is no clear reason as to why that is. Methylman251 (talk) 18:09, 7 December 2014 (UTC)

erm ... there's nothing wrong with it, the article does describe some of the objections. Is there any particular sentence you think would be difficult to rewrite? pablo 21:21, 7 December 2014 (UTC)
The article is underdeveloped—there are lots of examples out there of how to rewrite to avoid the split infinitive, and tehre are also counterexamples showing where the split infinitive is required (unless the entire sentence is recast, which is what a prescriptionist would resort to rather than asnswer your question). The article is underdeveloped—hopefully a motivated volunteer with good sources will beef it up. Curly Turkey ¡gobble! 21:48, 7 December 2014 (UTC)

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John Comly[edit]

Hi all. In a discussion at Talk:Linguistic prescription, User Curly Turkey pointed to a new book by Ammon Shea which has a section on the split infinitive in chapter 4, available here. It was published just over a year ago. Shea gives us a good independent confirmation of quite a few things, including the disapperance of the split infinitive in early modern times and its meteoric rise in the 19th century. Good to see the the overall picture we present is confirmed. However, he has a rabbit to pull out of his hat: he writes that, whereas the 1834 text was previously believed to be the earliest prohibition, he has found an earlier one, John Comly's English grammar, made easy to the teacher and pupil, 1803. He quotes this as saying 'An adverb should not be placed between a verb of the invinitive mood and the preposition to which governs it; as "Patiently to wait"; "Quietly to hope."' There is a scan of an 1823 edition of Comly here: it's on page 110. It's quite an interesting new discovery which will require some minor changes in our article. --Doric Loon (talk) 06:01, 17 April 2016 (UTC)

To boldly go[edit]

... or 'To gob oldly' as it would be transformed into.

If a split infinitive 'sounds better' than the words re-placed, and does not give rise to ambiguity, then it is right.

Continuing from the 'gradually' section - 'The bishop gave the elephant the bun' - adding the word 'only' in each possible different place changes the meaning of the sentence entirely. Does this phenomenon have a name? 193.132.104.10 (talk) 13:27, 12 May 2016 (UTC)

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Robbie Love's study[edit]

It was announced on BBC Radio 4 today (September 25 2017) that a study by Robbie Love, a Ph. D. student at the University of Lancaster, indicated that split infinitives are now seen as acceptable English. This could go in the article. Vorbee (talk) 17:05, 25 September 2017 (UTC)