An edited version of the letter below was published in The Australian of Thursday 24 August 2017. It was written in response to a letter which had taken one of the paper's journalists to task for splitting an infinitive. Underlined sections were deleted and bracketed ones inserted. The paper's heading was "Split on grammar".
Split infinitives and other grammatical nonsense
Steven Adams (Letters, 23/8) refers negatively to a split infinitive in the Inquirer article "Teaching the teachers" (22/8). While no doubt well-intentioned, his comment is inappropriate.
When descriptions of the grammar of English were first written, Latin had a privileged position in universities, the church and the law. Efforts were therefore made to apply the grammatical structures of Latin to English. Some worked OK, others not so much.
In Latin, as in many modern languages like French and German, the infinitive form of the verb is a single word so it cannot be "split". Often, to get the desired shade of meaning in English, an adverb needs to be deployed immediately before the main verb.
There are another two (other) of the so-called rules of traditional grammar which are also nonsense. These are the prohibitions against beginning sentences with conjunctions or ending them with prepositions.
The Inquirer piece did contain a grammatical error, or more generously a typo, but it did not relate to the use of the infinitive.
Former president, Australian Association for the Teaching of English
Teacher event - external assessment
Latest news Due to the lockdown in south east Queensland, this event will now be fully online. Links for the sessions will be emailed to all registrants on FRIDAY afternoon; you will be able to access the materials from 9am on Saturday morning. If you registered for in-person attendance, your registration will be automatic...
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Join us for an afternoon to reconnect with English colleagues, engage in discussion and explore ideas on how to prepare students for the external exam.
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To assist attendees to develop their understandings of grammar in order to fully comprehend and to effectively teach the Australia Curriculum: English (AC:E), a further session will be held on Saturday 28 August at a venue (to be announced) in the metropolitan area. Download the flyer for further details. If your school is inter...
Student event - external assessment
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See the flyer for more details. Registrations will open on 1st September.
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