To explore it further [and NOT to further explore it”], let’s take an example of contemporary split infinitives (and include an object of the infinitive in a lighter gray font to help with the exposition):

 

To boldly speak the truth

Now, just what are the problems with this?

 

Splitting the infinitive by cramming the adverb (or worse, an adverbial phrase!) down inside it is the most ineffective position for the adverb! There are three principal reasons as to why this turns an infinitive into an invalid.

1. We use adverbs specifically to add further meaning or greater effect to the verbs, adjectives, other adverbs—or to the entire phrases—that adverbs modify.

This wide usability is one aspect of adverbs that most forget: just because it’s called an ad-verb doesn’t mean you have to shove it down the throat of what you think is the verb. (The term adverb is from the Latin, ad + verbum/verba: applied to the word(s): not necessarily verb!)  It is vital to remember, as well, that adverbs do not automatically modify whatever follows them!

This amateurish, automatic, adverb-in-front-of-everything placement rule appears to have arisen from too many modern English language teachers' lack of a Classical, Humanities, education, and their resulting failure to understand the meaning of the word, adverb, itself!

To use adverbs effectively, it is absolutely, unrelentingly required that one get them in exactly the right position within the phrase! [Note: "To use adverbs effectively", NOT "To effectively use adverbs", NOR "To use effectively adverbs"!]

Hiding the adverb within the infinitive moves it into a dead & done, skip-over position because, whether the writer like it or not, the linguistic impetus on hearing /tu:/ is to move rapidly to the ‘core’ word that this phoneme governs. If this means hurrying past, ignoring the adverb, the mind will do that.

Compare the citation above with

To speak the truth boldly

or even with

Boldly to speak the truth

In contrast to that very first phrase, high above, in which the adverb is killed by its having been used to split the infinitive, you see in these further examples that pulling the adverb out of that mid-thicket of the infinitive allows the adverb to rise to prominence: to have much more effect, to create a phrase with far greater impact.

As this restoration also returns the infinitive to its expected form, that of a single unit, the phrase also flows more smoothly, without interruption. One must remember—always!—that because we learn the infinitive as a unit, the mind wants to hear and read it as a single unit. Any mangling of that expected format spaghettifies your meaning and weakens the effect of your message!


 


 

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0 #1 Ryan Bissell 2013-09-22 00:49
Thank you, I aspire to never again split an infinitive!
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