Splitting your Infinitives

The next time your English teach tells you not to split your infinitive, by all means, point them to “On the Separation, by Word or Words, of To and the Infinitive Mood,The American Journal of Philology Vol. 3(1882): 17-22.

English has allowed split infinitives apparently since the 1450’s – and indeed a number of infinitives – “to fulfill” developed from a split infinitive: “to fully fill.”

7 thoughts on “Splitting your Infinitives

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  1. Very modern reference there: 1882! There definitely times when splitting an infinitive sounds better and is more effective than not splitting it. We do it in Eisenbrauns books occasionally.


  2. I didn’t know that, but I’ve purposely split infinitives in the past when it made sense.

    I never got far enough in Greek to understand most of what you write here, but I do maintain interest in the philosophy of language and translation. This entry prompts me to ask, are translators open to the possibility that the Bible may purposely use bad grammar? Greek wasn’t the first language for several NT writers and I have to believe some scholars have a better grasp of Greek grammar than some of them. If I believed the Bible was a technical manual, I’d also believe the Holy Spirit would perfect the grammar, but I don’t. So could translators, when also interpreting, be finding meaning that technically does exist in the grammar, but was never intentioned by either the writer or Holy Spirit? I’m reminded of a number of cult classic films where fans pick up facts the filmmaker never intended to include. What if they meant to use bad grammar and we’re missing the point? Such an act is not common among great pieces of music, art, or oratory. Or, since we have only literature to teach us about Greek but (I presume) NT writers learned Greek from speaking where grammar and common usage are very different? If I never had an English class, I’m sure I’d use split infinities even more because it feels natural when speaking.

    That was some stream of consciousness questioning but I’m curious on your thoughts.

  3. Jon:

    There’s a lot in there. For one, we know that there’s bad grammar in the NT. 2 Peter & Revelation are pretty terrible (1 Peter is excellent, interestingly enough). Mark and John don’t write poorly, but they definitely write simply. I doubt that those who didn’t know Greek very well would use poor grammar intentionally.

    If one of the writers were to do such a things, it would be more likely to being someone who knew Greek well: like the author of Hebrews, Luke, or the author of 1 Peter. If Paul wrote Ephesians, it would seem quite possible that Ephesians 1:3-14 is an example of that. Those verses read more like Hebrew in many ways than they do Greek and it seems quite intentional.

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