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Are split infinitives grammatically incorrect, or are they valid constructs?
Order of “not” with infinitive

Suppose I want to tell someone that I want to learn how to stop myself from giving up. I could say:

I want to know how to not give up.

or

I want to know how not to give up.

Which one is the right expression?

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marked as duplicate by coleopterist, Barrie England, Andrew Leach, J.R., StoneyB Oct 9 '12 at 11:52

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

    
    
Either one could work, but I prefer the first in this case. –  J.R. Oct 9 '12 at 8:03
    
This is exactly the same question as one asked three days ago which was closed as a duplicate. –  Andrew Leach Oct 9 '12 at 8:05

2 Answers 2

Both are grammatically correct, and in the context you describe, it is acceptable to use them interchangeably. “How to not X” has a slightly more direct and active connotation than “how not to X” in this case.

However, it's better to say “how to keep going” or “how to persevere” rather than “how to not give up.”

“How to not X” is used for things like, “how to not snore” or “how to not drink” because, well, there’s no opposite of “snoring” except for “not snoring,” so that’s the only way to say it.

“How not to X” is sometimes used the same way, but it’s also used in cases where X is something you would do or might do, but you’re describing how to avoid doing it improperly. For example, “how not to dress” or “how not to speak to a police officer when you are pulled over.”

Unlike “snoring,” “giving up” does have an opposite- words and phrases like “persevering” or to “keep going.” So, you generally should use those instead.

It’s true, of course, that it’s quite common to say, “Never give up!” or “Don’t give up!” That’s because when you’re giving a command, forbidding someone to do something can be just as clear and direct as telling them to do something. However, if you’re giving them details on how to do something, rather than what to do, you’ll generally want to express that in terms of “how to do X” instead of “how to not do X.”

In general, the only time when the phrase “how to not X” is used is when it’s difficult or impossible to clearly express the exact same idea as “how to X.” For example, “how to not be jealous,” “how to not get pregnant,” “how to not snore,” and so forth.

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We are dealing with split infinitive, particularly adverbial phrase. As per the Wikipedia article, splitting infinitives with negations remains an area of contention:

to not give up.

not to give up.

There are many alternatives:

1) Very natural way: Use negative of finite verb.

I want to know a way so that I do not give up.

2) Common use by popularity:

I want to know how not to give up.

3) Go-by-rule but less practical use:

The opposite of give up is not give up.

Just place to before this block of words.

I want to know how to not give up.

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