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What are Split Infinitives?

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To go is an infinitive. In many languages, infinitives are made up of one word; however, in English they are made of two. You may have learned in school that you should never split an infinitive - this is not true. In today's English, it is perfectly acceptable to split infinitives.

Perhaps you are familiar with the science fiction show Star Trek? The '60s version of this show always started with the spoken phrase "To boldly go where no man has gone before." In this sentence the infinitive is to go, but it has been 'split' by the adverb boldly. In the past this was considered bad grammar, but these days it is fine. This is a good example of how English evolves and new forms become acceptable. Boldly, by the way, is bold in its adjective form, meaning brave or without fear.

Let's take a closer look at another expression and look at how moving around adverbs can completely change the meaning of a sentence. The three following sentences have different meanings.

"I want to live simply."

Meaning: I want to have a life that is simple. I don't want to complicate my life with too many things.

"I simply want to live."

Meaning: All I want to do is live. I don't want to die!

"I want to simply live."

Meaning: I want to live my life without working or doing all the other things which stop me from 'living.'


Link: the importance of punctuation