To helpfully clarify, to better communicate: a history of the split infinitive

If you think there’s something wrong with split infinitives, read this. (If you don’t, then read it anyway and enjoy the giggles.)

Stroppy Editor

As constantly happens in the history of language, the old order of things is changing. … The practice of inserting an adverb between the infinitive sign and the infinitive has steadily increased during the last hundred years, and goes on increasing still.

– Thomas Lounsbury, 1908

A tiny band of Japanese soldiers, stationed on an island in the Philippines, kept fighting for many years after World War II had ended because they refused to believe that their side could possibly have lost.

The war against the split infinitive is still being fought, even though the cause was lost long ago.

One of those who battles on, in denial of this ancient defeat, is Neville Gwynne. Last Monday he told Radio 4’s World at One:

The wrongness of the split infinitive is about as old as English itself. It dates back to about 1500 or something, and is based not…

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