Sometimes it’s Worse Not to Split an Infinitive (or To Not Split?)

Eugene Volokh points to a post on Language Log discussing an egregious example of an unsplit infinitive:

At a computer-security conference in 2015, researchers demonstrated how wirelessly to hack a car made by Jeep, spinning its steering wheel or slamming on its brakes.

How wirelessly to hack ?? Unbelievable. (You can find the article online with a Google search on "how wirelessly to hack". As I write, it is the only hit: no one has ever written that misbegotten four-word sequence in the prior history of the world.

The Language Log post goes on to point out that “how” can be used to modify an adjective or adverb phrase, giving the example of “how gratefully to acknowledge the gift.” That phrase asks how grateful your acknowledgment should be, not how to make your acknowledgment grateful.

Sometimes splitting an infinitive offends the ear. Sometimes not doing so offends the ear or alters the meaning of the sentence. It’s a question of judgment. Cultivate your judgment.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s