Friday, 3rd December, 2010

To boldly go …

Here we look at the split infinitive, which produces instant apoplexy in half the population. star trek shipThe simple act of putting an adverb between the two parts of the infinitive, as in ‘to boldly go’, can bring down the wrath of the pedant (yes, I know – ludamus is probably a pedant).

Is is a grammatical solecism? Consider these points:

  • “boldly to go” doesn’t sound quite so good to the ear
  • Various authorities think that it’s not a problem (e.g., Fowler)
  • What is actually wrong with such insertions in any case?

Our humble opinion is that any changes to the language should enhance its flexibility, subtlety and diversity, and the meaning of a sentence can be altered by a pedantic insistence on always putting the adverb in the “official” place. For instance,

I was told to always pay attention in class.

I was told always to pay attention in class.

We have a nice distinction there which is useful.

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