Grammar Monster
Grammar Monster

What Are Split Infinitives? (with Examples)

What Are Split Infinitives? (with Examples)

A split infinitive occurs when a word or phrase (usually an adverb) sits between the infinitive marker to and the base form of a verb. For example (split infinitive shaded and adverb in bold):
  • You have to really want it.
  • (Here, the infinitive verb is to want. The adverb splitting the infinitive is really.)

Is a Split Infinitive a Mistake?

A split infinitive is not an error. Splitting an infinitive is acceptable if it improves the flow of your sentence or makes it clearer.

Be aware though that split infinitives have not always been as acceptable as they are today, and using one might still annoy some of your readers (especially if there is an equally good version of your words without splitting an infinitive).

You should think of a split infinitive as a slightly risky grammatical construction. This is a safe process:

(1) Write your split infinitive.
(2) Let that little alarm bell go off in your head.
(3) Relocate the "offending" adverb outside the infinitive.
(4) If the new version reads worse than the split infinitive, revert to the split infinitive. If the new version reads equally as well as the split infinitive, avoid the split infinitive.

Let's try one:

StepExample
(1) Write your split infinitive. The trick is to actually lift it.
(2) Let that little alarm bell go off in your head. The trick is to actually lift it.
(3) Relocate the "offending" adverb outside the infinitive. Option 1: The trick is actually to lift it.
Option 2: The trick is to lift it actually.
(4) If the new version(s) reads worse than the split infinitive, revert to the split infinitive. If the new version(s) reads equally as well as the split infinitive, avoid the split infinitive. The trick is to actually lift it.

(Stick with the split infinitive. This version is far clearer than the others.)

Examples of Split Infinitives

Here are some more examples of split infinitives:

  • Our mission: to boldly go where no man has gone before.
  • (The infinitive verb to go is split by the adverb boldly.)
  • His takings are expected to more than quadruple when the weather improves.
  • (The infinitive verb to quadruple is split by the adverbial phrase more than.)

    The final word:
    • It is perfectly correct to consciously split an infinitive whenever such an act increases the strength or clarity of your sentence. (Norman Lewis)
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    Top Tip

    Splitting an Infinitive Might Score You Some Points

    Using a split infinitive (provided it flows well) can make you look confident, especially if your readers know you're sufficiently grammar savvy to have done it deliberately.