Why Doesn’t Anyone Care About Split Infinitives?

You know it’s true. For all that high school Grammar & Composition teachers tried to drill it into us, nobody cares. I’m not even sure the teachers care outside the classroom. Even grammar nazis seem to shrug and look the other way.

In case some of you care so little that you’ve already wiped the error from your mind, here’s how it works.

to + a verb in its infinitive form = an infinitive phrase

For example, “to be,” “to run,” and “to gallivant” are all infinitive phrases. Written like that, they’d be correct (not split). If you stick an adverb in the middle of them, “to humbly be,” “to awkwardly run,” or “to dramatically gallivant,” then they’re split and (technically) incorrect.

So why doesn’t anyone seem to care?

I don’t know (I don’t think anyone can know), but I can theorize. I can theorize that most people don’t know what an infinitive is, let alone an infinitive phrase or a split infinitive. And if they have no clue what it is, why on Earth would they care? (Let alone how…)

Then again, many people don’t know about plenty of other grammar errors, and it drives grammar lovers crazy (homophone errors or direct address, for starters).

So why is it that grammar lovers (or nazis) don’t care about this particular rule?

It can’t be because we split infinitives all the time when we talk – we break plenty of grammar rules when we talk. Most grammar nazis either understand the difference between casual speech and formal speech (especially between spoken and written) or don’t care and get upset about grammar mistakes in either.

The only reason I can think that explains why no one cares about split infinitives is the fact that it doesn’t muddle meaning. It really doesn’t. In English, adverbs can go before or after the verbs they modify, so it isn’t misplacing the modifier. It truly seems to be a rule for the sake of a rule (which, I would argue, is not usually the case).

But, like I said, I don’t know. That’s the only reason I’ve thought of that makes some sense (to me). How about you? Got any ideas?


One thought on “Why Doesn’t Anyone Care About Split Infinitives?

  1. Pingback: Old Grammar Rules That Should’ve Died with Latin | Words & Deeds

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