To boldly split infinitives

12th August 2016 at 01:00

Perverse pedantry is a long time a-dying. In “Why you’re wrong about grammar” (Feature, 5 August), Alistair McConville makes the comment: “oo-er, a split infinitive – can I get away with that, editor?” But the very notion of a “split infinitive” is simply a nonsense. The infinitive is the stand-alone, unmarked, non-finite form of the verb. As the object of the preposition “to” it forms an infinitive-phrase constituent in sentence structure, which is also the citation form of the verb. Hamlet got it sorted a good four centuries ago: “To be or not to be? That is the question” – answered towards the end of the play as “let be”.

Keith Davidson

Columnist for Teaching English, the journal of the National Association for the Teaching of English

Short and tweet

Twitter: I need book suggestions for my daughter (aged 6). She’s recently read Matilda and loved it, so that kind of level.


Scottish Book Trust worth a look – some niche lists, organised by age and (often peculiar) interest.


Harry and the Wrinklies. Boy stays with grandparents who turn out to be capering crims. Currently rereading. Am 24.


Asterix! Great stories, fab graphic narrative – you’d love reading them with her.


If she’s that good a reader now, introduce her up to great non-fiction and poetry too. She’s a sponge!


My 6-year-old has read all the Famous Five and Secret Seven. Now speaks like an Enid Blyton character, but she’s reading!


There’s a dearth of decent chapter books for ages 6-9. Except for underpants-themed rubbish.


I was reading Agatha Christie around that age.


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