What Is a Split Infinitive?

Split Infinitives are used frequently when speaking, thus noticing them when writing can be difficult.

Often in writing, grammar is left for last. Writers are primarily concerned with getting the point across, so grammar becomes something secondary that can be corrected later, whether by the writer or by an editor. One of the more common, overlooked, grammatical errors are split infinitives.

What is a Split Infinitive?cutting paper

A split infinitive occurs when one places an adverb between “to” and a verb. It’s an extremely common error and sometimes hard to catch.

The following sentences are good examples of split infinitives:

  • You have to really pay attention when he speaks.
  • It’s important to not put those two in a group together.
  • He used to secretly wish he had joined choir.

“Really,” “not,” and “secretly” have been placed in the middle of the infinitive, causing the sentences to technically be grammatically incorrect. The proper ways to write these sentences are as follows:

  • You really have to pay attention when he speaks.
  • It’s important not to put hose two in a group together.
  • He secretly used to wish he had joined choir.

Some People Prefer Split Infinitives

Oxford Dictionaries gives good insight into why anyone would want to uphold the split infinitive. The crux is that we often say them, so why not write them? If you’re trying to capture a certain “voice,” splitting infinitives might achieve your goal; however, the proper way to write a sentence in formal and professional writing is without splitting infinitives.  Whether spoken or written, the meaning of sentences change when word orders change.

As a writer or an editor, it’s important to watch for split infinitives. Catching grammatical errors in another’s work may be your job, but you must also check your own writing before submitting it, even if it’s something as short as an email. Using proper grammar shows you care about your work—double-check those emails, articles, and tweets! ~Holly



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