To not or Not to – What’s the difference?

The choice of to not or not to basically depends on what one is trying to emphasize. People often get confused about these phrases and mess up their sentences. While they may look like the same thing, they can have some differences.

To not or not to: what is the difference?

List of Homophones | Homophones Exa...
List of Homophones | Homophones Examples

Before getting into the difference between the two phrases to not and not to, it is important to learn about to. The word to is basically the infinitive form of a verb, as to run, to eat, to dance, etc.

Typically, the infinitive to is always written right next to the verb, as seen in the above examples. They all go like to+verb (run), to+verb (eat). It is said that they should not be separated by adverbs like not or any other word in a sentence. That means one should prefer writing, “She asked me not to dance.” Here, the phrase not to is justified.

However, it is possible to change the scenario. Adverbs like not can come in between the verbs to form a split infinitive. That means one can write, “she asked to not dance.” Here, the phrase to not is justified.

Although they look the same, there is one difference. When we are using not to, the typical form, we emphasize the fact that “she asked”. But on the other hand, with to not, we emphasize that I should not dance.

So, this is the basic difference.

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