THE SPLIT INFINITIVE





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."





ONE



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."





ONLY



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.





ALONE



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.





THE SENTENCE THE VERB facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

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