Split infinitives are not an uncommon phenomenon in academic writing. It is a widely spread myth that using them in a sentence structure is incorrect, however, this article will define split infinitives and illustrate how they are used correctly in a sentence.
Definition: Split infinitive
An infinitive defines a verb in its uninflected form, e.g. To do, to go, to say, to make etc. In most cases, it is indicated by placing “to” prior the verb. Regarding this, split infinitives define when a modifier is placed between the “to” and the verb.1
Examples of split infinitives
Split infinitives can alter the meaning of a sentence or emphasize different parts of the sentence or phrase. In formal writing, it is generally correct to place the adverb in the end of the sentence as shown in the following example:
However, when placing “immediately” between the infinitive verb, the importance to prioritize selecting the target group is emphasized:
When infinitives should not be split
Infinitives should not be split, if it would cause confusion and ambiguity and if there is no reason to split them for emphasis.2
In general, it is not advised to use them, especially in academic writing, as they may sound awkward or informal. Therefore, it is imperative to thoroughly choose when to use them when writing an academic paper.3
They are a form of misplaced modifiers. Typically, it is adverbs or adverbial phrases splitting an infinitive verb by placing them between the “to” and the verb.
It is relevant to split them when you want to highlight a specific part of the sentence.
In general, you should avoid using them in formal context, as they can cause ambiguity or confusion.
1 Cambridge Dictionary. “split infinitive.” Accessed April 21, 2023. https://dictionary.cambridge.org/de/worterbuch/englisch/split-infinitive.
2 Grammarist. “Split infinitives.” Accessed April 21, 2023. https://grammarist.com/grammar/split-infinitives/.
3 Effective Writing Practices Tutorial. “Split Infinitives.” Northern Illinois University. Accessed April 21, 2023. https://www.niu.edu/writingtutorial/grammar/split-infinitives.shtml.