Saturday, August 8, 2009

Split Infinitives or Misplaced Adverbs?

Dear Readers

As I explained in my previous posts infinitives are a form of non-finite verbs and they are often preceded by the particle to . Examples: to come ,to go ,to sleep etc

The concept of infinitives is borrowed from Latin where it is a kind of verbal nouns., sharing the characteristics of a noun and verbs .

When we use a to-infinitive as the subject and object of a verb , we treat it as a verbal noun When the characteristics of a verb are dominant , infinitives can be modified by adverbs like any verb . Examples

To work is to worship

Both to work and to worship have the meaning of nouns .To work is the subject of the verb is and to worship is its complement.

He wanted to leave immediately.

Here, to leave has the characteristics of a verb and , therefore, it has been modified by the adverb immediately .

What is a split infinitive ?

A split infinitive occurs when to-infinitive is more like a verb than a noun and an adverb comes in between to and the verb example : to successfully solve the problem

Is split infinitive a mistake?

In the early Middle English period -en was the infinitive marker. Later to was used before the verb as an additional infinitive marker. eg . to seeken In course of time -en was dropped because to served the purpose any way Originally ,to had a directional sense But it continued to be used even after the directional sense was dropped

Thus English came to have a two-word infinitive Unfortunately, traditional grammarians conceptualized it as a solid , indivisible entity by analogy with Latin -in which infinitive consists of a single word .So they considered insertion of adverbs between to and the verb as 'SPLITTING '" the infinitive ! .If they had called the practice misplacing of adverbs it would have made better sense

Adverbs generally follow verbs in English as in Latin .In course of time adverbs came to be used before verbs . These adverbs had a different meaning when used before verbs.This is the way English grew into a rich and versatile language .

Please note the adverbs that "split" infinitives are often short ones and they carry emphasis . I think that the so-called split infinitive is a big step in the growth of English and it is not to be denounced as a solecism .

I will continue the discussion in my next post

Thank you

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