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"Like most linguistically well-informed people, I regard the traditional ban on split infinitives and sentence final prepositions utterly absurd."
Me too. You too?
I guess that the issue cannot be simplyfied to the question "to split them or not to split them". I think that sometimes the infinitive is unit and sometimes it's not. I try and compare how other languages solve the problem, languages in which the infinitives are only one word for instance. So if the sentence in enlgish can only be expressed with the use of the infinitive word in a romance language then I see it as a "no split case" for example "I like to walk rapidly", nobody would say "I like to rapidly walk". On the other hand in english the infinitive is sometimes used in a sentece where other languages would use a complex tense for example: "people wanted him to smile", here I see the "to smile" not as a unit and I wouldn't mind saying :"people wanted him to at least smile". Moreover sometimes the "to" acts as a preposition for example in : "I use a pen to write". In this case, though I can't think of how to split this nicely, I don't see the "to write" as a unit.
I have to say that languages are just my hobbie, so I have no degree to support my opinion, I just love reading about it and discussing about language with people who know and i try to learn along the way.
I rarely split them, but I see no problem with splitting, which is getting increasingly common as adverbs of degree are sneaking in everywhere- to fully understand, to really come to terms with. There are also case where splitting can affect the meaning. I see 'to not do' as a more deliberate act that 'not to do', so it can be done to good effect, IMO.
It really depends on the context of the sentence. Would the sentence be confusing if we didn't split the infinitive or put the preposition anywhere other than at the end?
For example, can anyone imagine changing the Star Trek slogan "To boldly go where no man has gone before," to "To go boldly where no man has gone before"?
I think that good use of language requires us to be as clear as possible. I don't always split infinitives, but I do sometimes to prevent confusion.
The simplest way to approach this is to repeat the following several times:
"there is no such thing as a split infinitive"
To illustrate, "to argue" is not an infinitive, "argue" is; "to argue" is the construction "prepositional marker 'to' + 'infinitive' (base verb form)." We know this because the prepositional marker "to" is not always required with the infinitive:
Jim does argue a lot
I will argue your case later
So, to truly split (ha!) the infinitive, we'd have to come up with something like:
I'm too tired to arreallygue with you
English does not allow us to do this sort of infixing.
So where does that leave us?
It leaves us without the daffy and spurious concept of the "split infinitive." It means that the principal guide in choosing to place another word between the marker "to" and the "infinitive" is whether it "sounds right" stylistically and the alliteration is effective.
Last edited by JJM Ballantyne; 16-Sep-2005 at 22:24.
As I've repeated many times, I am just a linguistic's fan with no special qualification to opine on this matters
Having said that I'd like to express my views on the subject anyway
I don't quite agree that "to + verb" is not an infinitive and I am convinced that "to" shouldn't be always considered to have a prepositional role.
I have argued in the past that the roles of words in a sentence can be classified for clarity purposes. The fact that "to" is a preposition doesn't mean that it always has a prepositional role.
when you say:
I want to go
there is no prepositional role in the word "to". If you take a look at the definition of preposition and their function, you will see that those are not found in this sentence. In this case "to" doesn't specify any relationship between two parts of the sentence. It is simply marking that the verb is not inflected by person, mood or tense it is "helping"the verb as an auxiliary. If "to" were required as a preposition, you'd need it before a noun phrase as well.
I want to five apples ?????
In the cases
I will go
He does argue
The verb is INDEED inflected by tense mood and person so they ARE NOT an infinitive by definition.
so I guess I want to say that:
the only way to express an infinitive in the english language is using the infinitive marker (not the preposition) "to"
So it is possible to split it as in:
I want to quickly get there (even though I'd never say that)
But again sometimes "to" might have a prepositional role before a verb
I went there to comfort her
in which case it would be OK to say
I went there to at least comfort her
Last edited by edinohio; 18-Sep-2005 at 20:29.
Ed - you're way off here and you're needlessly complicating the grammar (which, in my experience, is an occupational hazard of a lot of grammarians).
I will go - "go" is the infinitive or the "base form"
He does argue - ditto for "argue"
The verbs "will" and "does" are doing all the "tense and person" work here, not "go" and "argue."
"...the only way to express an infinitive in the english language is using the infinitive marker (not the preposition) 'to'"
You're quite simply wrong.
hehe. Academics.... They go crazy when people don't speak the language the way it rationally ought to bewhich, in my experience, is an occupational hazard of a lot of grammarians
Thanks for your comments. However, you haven't convinced meOriginally Posted by JJM Ballantyne
You sound like a flexible person when it comes to rules, and that's OK, so you shoudln't say tat I am "quite simply wrong" since as many linguists say, there is not such a thing as right or wrong
Anyway, I'd like to try to understand why you say what you say, so if you can recomend any useful references, I'd appreciate it.
I agree that "will" and "does" do what they do, but they're doing the "person and tense"work on the verb, that is why they're called auxiliaries. The whole sentence indicates tense, mood, and person! Anyway I am not trying to convince you here. On the other hand, I think that stating that, the so called "infinitive marker" does not indicate infinitive, which is what you said by saying that I am simply wrong, is going a little bit far, wouldn't you agree?