Infinitives are the basic form of a verb that typically starts with the word “to.” Split infinitives occur when an adverb or adverbial phrase is inserted between “to” and the verb in an infinitive phrase. This controversial grammatical construction has sparked heated debates among language purists and grammar enthusiasts. Let’s delve into the world of split infinitives and explore the question, “Which sentence contains a split infinitive?”
Definition of a Split Infinitive
Before we can determine which sentence contains a split infinitive, it’s crucial to understand what a split infinitive is. An infinitive is split when an adverb or adverbial phrase separates the infinitive marker “to” from the base form of the verb. For example, in the sentence “I want to boldly go where no one has gone before,” the adverb “boldly” splits the infinitive “to boldly go.” While traditional grammar rules discourage split infinitives, modern usage has become more accepting of this construction.
The Origin of Split Infinitives
The debate over split infinitives dates back to the 19th century. Language purists argued that splitting an infinitive was a violation of grammatical rules borrowed from Latin, where infinitives are single words and cannot be divided. However, English does not adhere strictly to Latin grammar, leading to the acceptance of split infinitives in modern usage. Linguists point out that split infinitives have been used by esteemed writers such as Shakespeare and Austen, challenging the notion that split infinitives are inherently incorrect.
Examples of Split Infinitives
Now, let’s explore some examples of split infinitives to see which sentences contain them:
- To boldly go where no man has gone before.
- I need to quickly finish my homework.
- She wants to gently whisper the secret into his ear.
- He decided to carefully examine the evidence before making a judgment.
As you can see from these examples, split infinitives can enhance the clarity and emphasis of a sentence by placing the adverb closer to the verb it modifies. While some may argue that split infinitives should be avoided, others believe that they can be used effectively to convey meaning more precisely.
The Controversy Surrounding Split Infinitives
The debate over split infinitives centers on whether they are grammatically correct or should be considered a stylistic choice. Language purists often argue that split infinitives disrupt the flow of a sentence and should be avoided in formal writing. However, proponents of split infinitives contend that they can add nuance and emphasis to a sentence, making it more impactful and engaging.
One common argument against split infinitives is that they can create ambiguity or confusion in a sentence. For example, in the sentence “She decided to quickly run to the store,” the placement of the adverb “quickly” between “to” and “run” could suggest that the act of running was done quickly, rather than the decision itself being swift. Critics of split infinitives believe that rephrasing the sentence to avoid splitting the infinitive would clarify the intended meaning.
Modern Usage of Split Infinitives
In contemporary English, split infinitives are more widely accepted than they were in the past. Many style guides, including the Chicago Manual of Style and the Modern Language Association (MLA) handbook, no longer prohibit split infinitives. Writers are encouraged to use their judgment and consider the context in which a split infinitive is used. If splitting the infinitive enhances the clarity or impact of a sentence, it is generally acceptable to do so.
Split infinitives can be particularly useful in:
- Emphasizing a particular adverb or adverbial phrase
- Adding nuance or subtlety to a statement
- Creating a more natural or conversational tone
By understanding the purpose and effect of split infinitives, writers can make informed decisions about when to use them judiciously in their writing.
Which Sentence Contains a Split Infinitive?
Now, let’s revisit the question that inspired this exploration: “Which sentence contains a split infinitive?” The answer lies in recognizing when an adverb or adverbial phrase separates the infinitive marker “to” from the base form of the verb:
The sentence that contains a split infinitive is:
I want to boldly go where no man has gone before.
In this sentence, the adverb “boldly” splits the infinitive “to go,” making it a split infinitive construction. By identifying and understanding split infinitives, writers can consciously choose whether to use them in their writing for stylistic or rhetorical purposes.
In conclusion, the debate over split infinitives continues to spark lively discussions among language enthusiasts. While traditional grammar rules may discourage split infinitives, modern usage has embraced them as a valid stylistic choice. By understanding the purpose and impact of splitting infinitives, writers can make informed decisions about when to use them effectively in their writing. Whether to split an infinitive or not ultimately depends on the context, clarity, and emphasis desired in a sentence. So, the next time you encounter a split infinitive, remember that language is dynamic, and embracing diverse grammatical constructions can enrich your writing.