Hamlet (John Barrymore 1922)

Are infinitives to safely be split?
That is quite a question;
To carefully be considering it
Leads to indigestion –
Should any adverb come to follow ‘to’
Which sets out the manner
In which intended action one should do?
Or, is that a spanner
Thrown into centre of the verbal works
To disrupt the meaning?
‘To badly disrupt it’ – there madness lurks,
To lots need of cleaning!
Modern textbooks are of the opinion
To splits do is all right
(One knows the writer – some worthless minion -
Cannot be very bright!);
Opponents of ‘Grammar Nazis’ blether
They can’t see that the pair
Of the ‘to’ and verb belong together -
So strangely unaware!
Though, once you have acquired better habits,
Know some words break this law -
To rabbit punch is not to punch rabbits –
To fight fist?  ‘Fist fight’, more!
But, mostly, splits are to avoided be:
What you would like to say
Which, to formed be, is worded clumsily,
Just put another way!

The opinion I am expressing here is that one should ignore all the dim twits who say it is fine to boldly go splitting infinitives where no man has split before.  The ear should tell any person with a reasonable grounding in English that the ‘to’ and the verb are most comfortable when placed together.  Language must evolve and develop, but when new usages are reducing comprehension rather than enriching it, the changes should be resisted with vigour.  

Employ infinitives, split or unsplit, only when they fit harmoniously, or for deliberate jarring effect.  Otherwise, it is best to reword a phrase using a more direct verbal form.

© Colonialist January 2014 (WordPress)


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About colonialist

Active septic geranium who plays with words writing fantasy novels, with notes writing classical music, and with riding cycles, horses and dinghies.
This entry was posted in Education, Grammar, Humour, Poems, Really Awful Rhyme and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. I agree with you. I often read my sentences aloud to be sure they sound correct to the ear. Language is tricky business!

  2. gipsika says:

    You meant to, in reality, say: To carefully reword…

  3. The Asian says:

    I’m going to be using a fine tooth comb to go through all my posts and comments before I publish anything now!

  4. bulldog says:

    My English is so bad ..If I commit this crime please excuse me…

  5. granny1947 says:

    You must shudder when reading my blogs!

  6. hear-hear to all your unsplit infinitives –
    split infinitives – up with which I will not put …

  7. disperser says:

    To perchance dream to boldly go and to soundly sleep once arrived . . . to honestly desire thus is to sadly push the bounds of hope. Yet we strive to openly push these bounds we foolishly set on ourselves, for we know that to bravely defy convention, is to joyfully live as free men.

    • colonialist says:

      Execute him! Execute him NOW! For he hath transgressed most horribly against the God of Proper English Usage and for such blasphemy shouldst be squished!

      • disperser says:

        As an atheist I fear not the wrath of impotent gods . . . and the PUE god is one of the more impotent gods, as can be witnessed by how much the English language has exhilaratingly changed.

        One can perhaps argue it’s justly popular because it certainly is a dynamic language, willing to gently, and occasionally not so gently, bend to the whims of both the uneducated and educated rebellious writers.

        Indeed, the very rules one holds to oh-so fiercely, are the rules which when daringly broken are slyly used to affect emotions, drive intent, and make language a living, growing instrument commanding attention.

        History is sadly strewn with the corpses of inflexible languages that sought to stubbornly control their fate, and to tightly grip the imagined flag of purity.

        • colonialist says:

          I see little exhileration in the stultifying effects of the rabble imposing unimaginative simplifications or ill-considered embellishments which fetter expression and turn the language into something crippled and ugly.
          Good and sensible rules are broken for occasional effect. When habitually broken, even the excuse of that effect is lost, and the result is retrogression..

  8. bluebee says:

    Being a descriptive linguist, as opposed to a prescriptive linguist, I be unwell after reading this!

    • colonialist says:

      One can be fully descriptive, methinks, without having to invent extra letters of the alphabet, frig zompull. Of course, one might go for a culture of non-vowelence … I mean, nn vwlnc!

  9. Colline says:

    Oh yes indeed, I prefer too when the to and verb stay married.

  10. nrhatch says:

    I tend to avoid splitting hairs or infinitives. :D

  11. You’ll be happy to know that I’ve never mastered the art of doing the splits, Col.

  12. have had a migraine for two days and this is just making my head spin so I will apologize, here and now, to all the writing gods for times when I did not know whether to be or not to!

  13. I stopped somewhere half way I think… will try again to pick up this read shortly …

  14. I’m scared now… ;)

  15. suzicate says:

    You are quite the clever one to come up with this…hurt my head just reading, lol!

  16. misswhiplash says:

    Oh gawdy gawdy…what brought that lot on ?
    After reading that I shall not dare to write again……

    • colonialist says:

      You only have to be paranoid when a ‘to’ is followed by a verb instead of a noun! Going to the shop is safe. To be going there … isn’t! (You might be about to be mugged?) :)

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