The Split Infinitive Explained: Enhancing Clarity in English Writing

6 April 2024 / Team Fun English Course

What are split infinitives, you ask? Imagine you have the power to boldly insert an adverb between the word “to” and a verb, creating a combination as striking as a lightning bolt in a clear sky. This term is the heart of split infinitives.

So, let’s dive into this grammatical phenomenon that allows writers to elegantly and effectively tweak the tone of their prose.

The Essence of Split Infinitives

When to use split infinitives

At its core, a split infinitive occurs when an adverb is snugly placed between “to” and the verb it modifies. 

Writers, on the other hand, can emphasize, modify, or clarify the action in a way that’s as refreshing as a new perspective on an old idea. Still, you need to pay attention to when to use split infinitives, such as:

1. For Clarity

Sometimes, the clearest way to express an idea requires strategically placing an adverb right in the heart of an infinitive. It’s like choosing the perfect room furniture spot to maximize beauty and function.

  • Original: “She decided to introduce the new policy to avoid confusion.”
  • With Split Infinitive: “She decided to gradually introduce the new policy to avoid confusion.”

In this case, the split infinitive “to gradually introduce” makes it immediately clear that the gradual introduction is aimed at preventing confusion.

2. For Emphasis

Want to make a point stand out or make an action feel more intense? A split infinitive can be your highlighter, drawing the reader’s attention exactly where you want it.

  • Original: “He promised to support the team’s decision.”
  • With Split Infinitive: “He promised to fully support the team’s decision.”

Placing “fully” right before “support” strongly emphasizes his support’s completeness.

3. For Rhythm

The rhythm of a sentence affects its mood and impact. Inserting an adverb within an infinitive can alter the music of your prose, making it more engaging and memorable.

  • Original: “To win the game, the team needs to play aggressively.”
  • With Split Infinitive: “To win the game, the team needs to aggressively play.”

Here, the split infinitive “to aggressively play” alters the rhythm of the sentence. Thus, it sounds more dynamic and impactful.

More than anything, split infinitive examples are beyond grammatical curiosities. By understanding when and why to deploy them, you can elevate your writing from the mundane to the memorable.

Mastering Split Infinitives: Enhance Your Writing

Understanding split infinitives

Understanding split infinitives is more effortless with these tips.

  • Whether to add precision or emphasis, please use split infinitives deliberately. 
  • If placing an adverb within an infinitive makes your sentence clearer or more specific, you’re on the right track.
  • In addition to stressing a particular action or quality, you can wedge an adverb right before the verb – it makes your point stand out with the brightness of a spotlight.
  • While split infinitives can be powerful, they’re like spices—best used with moderation.
  • Last but not least, read your sentences aloud.

Traditionally, the grammar rules for split infinitives might shy away. However, modern usage celebrates their potential for adding nuance and vigor to writing.

Exercise Section

Grammar rules for split infinitives

  1. Change the sentence to use a split infinitive correctly: “She wants to visit the museum to examine the artwork carefully.”

Answer: “She wants to visit the museum to carefully examine the artwork.” (This sentence already correctly uses a split infinitive to emphasize the careful examination of the artwork.)

  1. Which of the following options is an example of a split infinitive?
  2. To quickly run
  3. To sing loudly
  4. Running quickly
  5. Loudly to sing

Answer: A. To quickly run

  1. Add a split infinitive to this sentence to emphasize urgency: “We need to act to resolve the issue.”

Answer: “We need to act to quickly resolve the issue.”

Learn more about split infinitives and English in general with us at Fun English Course! Our diverse classes cater to everyone—from curious kids to ambitious professionals

So, leap and sign up now. And who knows? Perhaps you’ll soon discover the intriguing world of “what are split infinitives” and much more.

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