Transposition Issue

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Transposition Issue

Post by Archived Topic » Fri Jan 04, 2002 4:37 am

Which is it...?

"...told me to never follow the crowd."
"...told me never to follow the crowd."

Thanks.
Submitted by Jason Minamora (Los Angeles - U.S.A.)
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Transposition Issue

Post by Archived Reply » Fri Jan 04, 2002 4:51 am

Jason - This addresses the age-old debate about the correctness or not of "splitting the infinitive" in an English construction. As in many areas of grammar, "experts" disagree - and the consensus has also shifted in the last fifty years. The old "rule" was that one should NEVER separate the "to" from the verb infinitive when the 'to-infinitive' form of the verb was used. The reason seems to be that doing so would conflict with associated principles of Latin grammar, which defenders of the English Language held sacrosanct. Now the adage "If it's not broke, don't fix it" is a good rule-of-thumb, but there are reasons why the rule was not perfect and could be advantageously relaxed. However, traditions die hard, and we probably have "Star Trek" , which dared to boldly go beyond the familiar, to thank for really breaking the fetters.
The first reason why split infinitives should be allowed - even, at times, encouraged - is that accuracy of communication is more important than traditionalism. As Sir Ernest Gowers pointed out, "failing to completely recognise" does not mean the same as "completely failing to recognise". Of course, the communicator should use whichever construction accurately describes the situation.
The second reason is that rigidly applying the DON'T SPLIT rule often results in ridiculous and artificial-sounding constructions. Thus: "It is the intention of the Minister of Transport substantially to increase Road-tax" doesn't sound too rosy. "It was not Sir Tristan's intention mortally to wound his opponent" sounds ridiculous.
On the other hand, it's not a better practice to too often split the infinitive. :)
Another Sacred Cow of English grammar is "Thou shalt not end a sentence with a preposition!"
Churchill contrived: "This is [a situation] up with which I will not put," tongue- (and cigar-) in-cheekily.
At the other extreme, from an apocryphal beleagured cyclist: "What an awkward day for losing the bag I keep the spanner for tightening the spokes up with in on!"
Both are fun but ridiculous in normal conversation or writing.
"Bloomsbury Grammar Guide"(1993), "Caxton : English Grammar"(2000), Fowler : "...Modern English Usage"(1926 but enlightened)
Reply from Edwin Ashworth (Oldham - England)
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Transposition Issue

Post by Archived Reply » Fri Jan 04, 2002 5:05 am

For more examples of prepositional proliferation, have a look at the topic 'Prepositions' in this forum.
Reply from Erik Kowal ( - England)
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Transposition Issue

Post by Archived Reply » Fri Jan 04, 2002 5:20 am

Forgot to check under "prepositions", Erik. I didn't realise you buttered up ladies on the website. Perhaps that should read "propositions". But not "crumpet".
I'd give the attribution to the "up-with-in-on" above if I could remember it. A Google search is interesting but unhelpful. It may have been the "Beano".

Reply from Edwin Ashworth (Oldham - England)
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