THE SPLIT INFINITIVE
Common Stumbling Blocks - Peculiar Constructions - Misused Forms.
Even the best speakers and writers are in the habit of placing a
modifying word or words between the to and the remaining part of the
infinitive. It is possible that such will come to be looked upon in time
as the proper form but at present the splitting of the infinitive is
decidedly wrong. "He was scarcely able to even talk" "She commenced
to rapidly walk around the room." "To have really loved is better
than not to have at all loved." In these constructions it is much
better not to split the infinitive. In every-day speech the best speakers
sin against this observance.
In New York City there is a certain magistrate, a member of "the 400,"
who prides himself on his diction in language. He tells this story: A
prisoner, a faded, battered specimen of mankind, on whose haggard face,
deeply lined with the marks of dissipation, there still lingered faint
reminders of better days long past, stood dejected before the judge.
"Where are you from?" asked the magistrate. "From Boston," answered the
accused. "Indeed," said the judge, "indeed, yours is a sad case, and yet
you don't seem to thoroughly realise how low you have sunk." The man
stared as if struck. "Your honor does me an injustice," he said bitterly.
"The disgrace of arrest for drunkenness, the mortification of being
thrust into a noisome dungeon, the publicity and humiliation of trial in
a crowded and dingy courtroom I can bear, but to be sentenced by a Police
Magistrate who splits his infinitives--that is indeed the last blow."
The indefinite adjective pronoun one when put in place of a personal
substantive is liable to raise confusion. When a sentence or expression
is begun with the impersonal one the word must be used throughout in
all references to the subject. Thus, "One must mind one's own business if
one wishes to succeed" may seem prolix and awkward, nevertheless it is
the proper form. You must not say--"One must mind his business if he
wishes to succeed," for the subject is impersonal and therefore cannot
exclusively take the masculine pronoun. With any one it is different.
You may say--"If any one sins he should acknowledge it; let him not try
to hide it by another sin."
This is a word that is a pitfall to the most of us whether learned or
unlearned. Probably it is the most indiscriminately used word in the
language. From the different positions it is made to occupy in a sentence
it can relatively change the meaning. For instance in the sentence--"I
only struck him that time," the meaning to be inferred is, that the
only thing I did to him was to strike him, not kick or otherwise abuse
him. But if the only is shifted, so as to make the sentence read-"I
struck him only that time" the meaning conveyed is, that only on that
occasion and at no other time did I strike him. If another shift is made
to-"I struck only him that time," the meaning is again altered so that
it signifies he was the only person I struck.
In speaking we can by emphasis impress our meaning on our hearers, but in
writing we have nothing to depend upon but the position of the word in
the sentence. The best rule in regard to only is to place it
immediately before the word or phrase it modifies or limits.
is another word which creates ambiguity and alters meaning. If we
substitute it for only in the preceding example the meaning of the
sentence will depend upon the arrangement. Thus "I alone struck him at
that time" signifies that I and no other struck him. When the sentence
reads "I struck him alone at that time" it must be interpreted that he
was the only person that received a blow. Again if it is made to read "I
struck him at that time alone" the sense conveyed is that that was the
only occasion on which I struck him. The rule which governs the correct
use of only is also applicable to alone.
Next: OTHER AND ANOTHER