Is it okay for a parenthesis to come between to + infinitive, or should it stay as a one-part whether it's before or after the parenthesis?

I began to, when it left me and disappeared, desire it

And I wonder if it's the same case with used to + infinitive:

Where are my dreams when they used to, however I go, go

  • 1
    In my opinion, something being absent and then disappearing doesn't really make sense (I think you were going for idioms.thefreedictionary.com/…), but I don't know the whole story.
    – user3395
    Aug 13 '19 at 20:27
  • Having another look at it, I concluded that you are right. It needed some severe edits in order to make sense.
    – Tasneem ZH
    Aug 15 '19 at 4:25

You have tagged the question "poetry". In poetry, anything goes.

In prose writing, what you're describing is known as a split infinitive.

To split an infinitive is to put another word, or phrase, between "to" and the infinitive verb.

Here are examples of split infinitives:

To boldly go where no one has gone before.

--- Star Trek

Splitting the infinitive has been done for hundreds of years, but apparently in the 1800s there were a few grammar "authorities" who decided it shouldn't be done.

There are plenty of authorities who say it is fine to split an infinitive.

  1. Thoughtco has an excellent article about split infinitives, with the arguments for and against, with some great quotes:

Upon learning that an editor had "tinkered" with his infinitives, playwright George Bernard Shaw said, "I don't care if he is made to go quickly, or to quickly go--but go he must."

and, from novelist [Raymond Chandler, 1947], who wrote to his editors:

"Would you convey my compliments to the purist(Definition) who reads your proofs (Definition) and tell him or her that I write in a sort of patois which is something like the way a Swiss waiter talks, and that when I split an infinitive, God damn it, I split it so it will stay split." ---quoted in Richard Nordquist. "Understanding Split Infinitives." ThoughtCo, Jul. 3, 2019.

Plenty more articles say to boldly split an infinitive is a fine thing to do:

  1. The Guardian, "Pass Notes" column, 2017.

  2. Linguist Steven Pinker, also in The Guardian, 2014

While there are still some who advise against splitting infinitives:

  1. Mignon Fogarty, "The Grammar Girl", Quick and Dirty Tips

  2. Get it Write Online makes the case that splitting an infinitive can make your writing hard to follow, or unclear:

Because an infinitive expresses a single idea, a unit of thought, we try to keep its two parts—the marker to and the root verb that follows it—together if we can. --- Nancy Tuten, Get it Write Online, 2016


Splitting an infinitive can be tricky. In poetry, you are absolutely free to do it.

In prose writing, if the sentence is clear, or you like how it sounds, go for it(Definition).

If the meaning of the sentence is not clear, or it interrupts your thought too much, it is best to carefully reconsider, or to, as well as you can, rewrite the sentence.

  • 1
    Thank you so much! The answer is very informative, the ideas are clear and sequential, and more importantly, there are links which support the answer pretty well and reduce the efforts for the learners such as me to open new tabs to search for what they don't understand/know although it is their work to do. Thanks again!
    – Tasneem ZH
    Aug 13 '19 at 10:46

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