More on the split infinitive

America may be going down the toilet, but we’ve still got to hang on to what we can hang on to. In a recent comment, a reader wrote:

If America is to ever recover from the nearly mortal blows of the last week…

In preparing the comment for posting, I changed it to:

If America is ever to recover from the nearly mortal blows of the last week…

My guideline in this area is very simple: Good writers do not use the split infinitive. Therefore I don’t use split infinitives in my own writing, and I don’t allow them at VFR.

- end of initial entry -

David H. in Oregon writes:

The split infinitive is out, and the preposition at the end of the sentence may be the next to go. We’ve still got to hang on to that on to which we can hang!

LA replies:

Touché. I was aware of my end-of-sentence preposition and thought someone might call me on it. Generally I avoid such hanging prepositions in my own writing and I sometimes edit them out of readers’ comments, but far from always.

There are two reasons for this: (1) I don’t think that prepositions at the end of a sentence are as bad as split infinitives, especially when one is writing in a more casual vein. (2) There are times when it is impossible to avoid them without absurdity. You yourself just showed how awkward it would have been to avoid it in this instance. And of course Winston Churchill famously pointed out that it would be silly to insist on avoiding them in every instance, with this example:

Ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I will not put.

Another version of the sentence is:

This is the kind of arrant pedantry up with which I will not put.

Warren N. writes:

A split infinitive occurs in the opening sequence of the original Star Trek television series: to boldly go where no man has gone before.

Do you object to this split infinitive??

LA replies:

This is the example EVERYONE instantly brings up. I have no problem with the opening of Star Trek. I enjoy the opening of Star Trek. I rejoice at the opening of Star Trek. Something as effective as the opening of Star Trek goes by its own rules.

And I hope you understand that what I’ve just said is irrelevant to my main point in this entry.

Dan T. writes:

Richard Loeb (of Leopold and Loeb fame) is said to have died in prison of knife wounds received in response to his advances to another prisoner in the shower. This perhaps is the most dramatic example of ending a sentence with a proposition. (That was originated by some wit back in the 1930s.)

Posted by Lawrence Auster at July 02, 2012 03:37 PM | Send

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