1. lameri
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    lameri Senior Member

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    Split infinitive

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by lameri, May 17, 2011.

    Hello,

    I know it is very debatable, but I would like to know your views, particularly with "not to + infinitive" versus "to not + infinitive."

    I usually try to avoid the split, but in this sentence, the split sounds better. Am I wrong?
    (no split) the Air Canada employee said it was company policy not to help us if there was no elevator

    (split) the Air Canada employee said it was company policy to not help us if there was no elevator

    Thank you.
     
  2. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't know why the split infinitive sounds better to you. The sentence is incorrect and looks downright odd to me. Maybe it's a regional idiosyncracy?
     
  3. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Debatable? Not that I know of. The first of the two sentences is correct.
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The fuss about split infinitives isn't a real grammar rule. It was an editor's pet peeve that went viral in the days long before the Internet.

    Just don't overdo it.
     
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    either way would be acceptable to some editors... and each may be unacceptable to some... it's nothing to argue about...
     
  6. lameri
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    lameri Senior Member

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    It is. Do a google search.
     
  7. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Don't ever try version 2 in an English language exam. It will certainly be marked as wrong.
     
  8. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Second version doesn't read well to me. I'd certainly go with the first.
     
  9. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think the second sentence sounds more specific, as if the company policy is making a point of not helping anyone when there is no elevator. But maybe it's just me.
     
  10. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    When I was doing (undergraduate) English language exams it was version 1 that would have been marked wrong because it's a split infinitive. As Cog says, that was never really a rule, but there are enough people who think it is that it's worth avoiding them if it's reasonably practical so to do. I'd be comfortable with either version. Neither of them is actually wrong, and if version 2 would get marked wrong all it shows is that modern examiners are as susceptible to pet peeves as they were in my day. It's just that the pet peeves change over time.
     
  11. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    'When I was doing (undergraduate) English language exams it was version 1 that would have been marked wrong because it's a split infinitive.'

    Um... sorry? Version 2 is the split infinitive, not version 1. 'to + verb' is the (positive) infinitive, 'not + to + verb' is the negative. It's when you put something between the 'to' and the verb that you split it, e.g. 'to boldly go'.

    'the Air Canada employee said it was company policy to help us if there was no elevator' = positive sentence, no split infinitive
    'the Air Canada employee said it was company policy not to help us if there was no elevator' = negative sentence, still no split infinitive.
     
  12. JimFlagg
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    JimFlagg Contributing Member

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    I could be wrong but shouldn't the infinitive be applied to the hole action "not help" not just "help". So shouldn't it be:

    'the Air Canada employee said it was company policy to not help us if there was no elevator'

    I could be wrong. Not an English major.
     
  13. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    The infinitive is the unconjugated form of the verb without, or more often with, 'to', but in the case of an infinitive phrase like the example, it must be the particle 'to' + (base) verb. So, if you are making it negative, you add 'not' before the infinitive with to, i.e. you don't split them.
     
  14. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Sorry, you're right. I'm here for the writing, not for the maths :redface:

    I think Cog's point is right, though: None of the grammar textbooks or style guides I have say a split infinitive is wrong or bad style, and, historically, splitting infinitives has always been normal in English. The hostility came from a dogma that the classical languages were superior to English and so to the notion that Latin and Greek rules of grammar should spuriously be imposed on English.
     
  15. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    imo, since it's an order/directive, the most logical and best 'matching' opposite of 'to help' in that sentence, is 'to not help'...

    'not to help' takes it out of the 'order' or 'instruction' category...
     
  16. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    For me the emphasis is different too, but I see them both as instructions. "instructed not to help" is an instruction not to do something -- help. "instructed to not help" is an instruction to do something -- not help. The latter seems to me to be verging on an instruction to be actively unhelpful, maybe even hindering.
     
  17. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's what I thought too, but you expressed it clearer .)
     

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