To more than justify the split infinitive

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As long ago as 1914, an article by the grammarian George O. Curme made the point that more than can modify the verb of an infinitival complement, and since it must be adjacent to the verb, that actually forces a split infinitive: shifting the more than modifier to anywhere else creates clear ambiguity. I found a small measure of comfort in seeing that even The Economist, so often driven to deleteriously unnatural phrasing in its efforts to avoid split infinitives, acknowledges this grammatical imperative. In the November 26 issue for 2016 (online here) we read:

A string of purchases of A380s, starting in 2008, helped traffic to more than double to 51m in 2015.

Since avoiding the separation of to and the verb here would occasion a major rethink of how to construct the whole sentence, nobody ever objects to this sort of split infinitive. Yet it demonstrates, as clearly as one could want, that there simply is no general principle of English syntax forbidding modifiers from intervening between to and the verb of an infinitival clause.

The construction to more than double has in fact appeared more than a hundred times in The Economist (not sure how many, but run a Google search on {"to more than double"} and decide for yourself). This underlines the fact that there is no basis for the magazine's cowardly policy of avoiding split infinitives on the grounds that readers might get irritable. There never was any such basis. We can't avoid everything that some crazies somewhere might object to. In fact [Sorry; in this next bit Geoff was going to refer to something that some crazies somewhere might object to, so we have reluctantly deleted it. —The Editors]

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