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#3612 - 06/23/00 06:21 PM Splitting infinitives  
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Verbist Offline
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Splitting infinitives

I just finished reading a small book on the English language. It’s called "Mother Tongue, The English language and how it got that way". In the section about grammar is poses the point "What is wrong with Splitting infinitives" and then it comes to the conclusion; "I cannot find any particular reason why we cannot split out infinitives".

I was wondering on all of your feeling on this subject.

-Justin

ps, sorry about my spelling/grammar. Its never been my strong point.



#3613 - 06/23/00 06:43 PM Re: Splitting infinitives  
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ammelah Offline
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On the question of split infinitives I think that Strunk and White have sound advice to give: trust your ear. In their view, "the split infinitive is another trick of rhetoric in which the ear must be quicker than the handbook. Some infinitives seem to improve on being split, just as a stick of round stovewood does." (What a nice analogy.) Their example is: "I cannot bring myself to really like the fellow." They regard this sentence as more relaxed and natural than the un-split alternative, and I agree. In addition, splitting the infinitive calls attention to the adverb, which can be a desired effect. My example: "...to boldly go where no man has gone before..."


#3614 - 06/23/00 06:48 PM Re: Splitting infinitives  
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Interesting you should cite Bill Bryson. We've been talking about his books on several boards here.
I avoid splitting infinitives, but it's not a sacred thing to me. If splitting an infinitive is less clumsy ("to boldly go..." in lieu of "boldly to go..."), I'll happily split away. I have a feeling this rule stems from Victorian grammarians who tried to impose Latin grammar on English. Latin infinitives (and those of most of its descendants) are, by nature of their being single words, unsplittable.


#3615 - 06/23/00 06:50 PM Re: Splitting infinitives  
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ammelah, interesting that we both chose Star Trek to illustrate our point!


#3616 - 06/23/00 07:10 PM Re: Splitting infinitives  
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ammelah Offline
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AnnaStrophic -- interesting, yes, but had we both come up with a literary quote I would have been happier. Maybe someone else can help us out here?


#3617 - 06/23/00 08:58 PM Re: Splitting infinitives  
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tsuwm Offline
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I'm going to quickly jump in with a link to alt.usage.english which has a discussion on this subject:
http://www.faqs.org/faqs/alt-usage-english-faq/

The discussion closes with the following:
Hardly any serious commentator believes that infinitives should never be split. The dispute is between those who believe that split infinitives should be avoided when this can be done with no sacrifice of clarity or naturalness, and those who believe that no effort whatever should be made to avoid them.

#3618 - 06/24/00 12:22 AM Re: Splitting infinitives  
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Verbist Offline
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Thanks everyone. If you want to see a few split infinitives you might want to read Mark Twain :-)


#3619 - 06/24/00 04:19 AM Re: Splitting infinitives  
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I'm at work now and the book's at home so I can't give the precise reference, but David Crystal's Encyclopaedia of the English Language has a hilarious skit from Punch on the subject of split infinitives.

Bingley


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#3620 - 06/24/00 12:29 PM Re: Splitting infinitives  
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paulb Offline
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Our good friend Fowler has several entertaining columns on split infinitives, and ends with a wonderful example 'borrowed' from a reviewer:

‘A book … of which the purpose is thus — with a deafening split infinitive — stated by its author: "Its main idea is to historically, even while events are maturing, and divinely — from the Divine point of view — impeach the European system of Church and States".’



#3621 - 06/24/00 01:30 PM Re: Splitting infinitives  
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Jakarta
The promised reference is page 86.

Bingley


Bingley
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