Date: Tue, 13 Feb 1996 16:51:20 -0700


Subject: To boldly split an infinitive or not

My understanding of the prohibition against "splitting an infinitive" is

that it was enjoined by Dryden, the "father of modern English prose", on

the grounds that French, whose speakers the English abjectly envied and

sought to emulate in order to become "civilized", did not do it, so English

should likewise do so if it were to be a civilized language. However, I

don't have the reference for this. Prescriptive grammarians have always loved

to have "rules" they could enforce on the lower orders of society, and this

is one that has long appealed to them.

My assumption is that the to is taken as the sole "marker" of the

infinitive, so that without it, as in the "bare infinitive" construction

Sali mentioned, there would be nothing to split, and thus nothing to prohibit.

It was Fowler, I believe, who divided the world into those who knew

what a split infinitive was, and avoided it, those who did not know what a

split infinitive was, and did not care, and those who knew, and discriminated

in whether to split or not.

--Rudy Troike (rtroike[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]