04 Wendy Hobson logo wendy hobson logo opaque

When you place an adverb between ‘to’ and a verb, you are splitting an infinitive. To some, a split infinitive is an absolute no-no and they will reorganise sentences in any way they can to avoid them. This is not necessary.

Emphasis, cadence and meaning are all good reasons

to consciously split – or not split – an infinitive.





The position of the adverb in a sentence can influence the meaning if, by moving it, the adverb then modifies another word.

You need to really concentrate when you are in command of a spaceship.

You really need to concentrate when you are in command of a spaceship.

In the first sentence, you are concentrating exceptionally hard; in the second, it is very important that you concentrate.





The adverb will have more power in some sentences if it is next to the verb.

The changes were designed to substantially improve the warp drive.

She determined to quickly send off the space probe before she changed her mind.





You would have to completely rewrite this sentence to maintain the sense.

The number of aliens was expected to more than double before the crisis was over.





Trying to avoid a split infinitive can make the sentence sound contrived. (Of course, the opposite can also be true.)

To boldly go where no one has gone before.

To go boldly where no one has gone before.





The final nail in the coffin of the outright ban on split infinitives is that the reasoning is spurious. In the late nineteenth century, splitting infinitives was common. However, some grammarians decided that it was better not to do so on the basis that the infinitive was never split in Latin. Since a Latin verb comprises one word, not two, that would be hard to achieve.





Since splitting, or not splitting, the infinitive has such power, surely the sensible approach is simply to be aware of what you are doing and choose the construction that creates the meaning, cadence and emphasis you want in your sentence.

As captain, it is important to consider your decisions carefully.

Concentrate on your ability to uniquely plot your path through space.

To travel elegantly is the ultimate goal.



Split infinitives


Use the main menu or the links below to find out about my editorial services.



Rhythm and cadence

It is not necessary

To split or not to split