I came up with this question when I received an email from a committee with a sentence 'We have decided not to publish it', which seems really strange to me because the grammar I learned in English classes is 'decide not to do something' and 'decide to not do' was told incorrect.

I searched for answers to this problem online, but did not find a clear as well as persuasive answer. In terms of grammar, is 'decide not to do' correct ? If it is incorrect, is there a reason why people say 'decide not to do' even in official letters ?

  • 1
    You object to the order that is actually correct according to the very rule you stated. And you do it twice, so it can't be a mere typo.
    – RegDwigнt
    Aug 31, 2014 at 22:36

2 Answers 2


Each of decide not to do, decide to not do, and not decide to do is correct. But the last one means something different from the other two.

  • If you have decided not to do X then you have decided. (And presumably you will not do X.) And deciding not to do X is the same as deciding to not do X.

  • If you have not decided to do X then you have not made a decision about doing X.

  • 2
    But these Google Ngrams show which of OP's suggested alternatives is more idiomatic. Aug 31, 2014 at 21:11
  • @EdwinAshworth That's a really cool tool! Thank you!
    – booksee
    Sep 1, 2014 at 1:04
  • @booksee Your question is a good one (though it's been asked here before). The apparently more logical choice ('decide to not V') is far less commonly used than 'decide not to V'. Possibly it's just a matter of which flows better in speech. Sep 1, 2014 at 7:25

No, I am pretty sure that they are both perfectly acceptable, and in actual fact the way that you say sounds strange is normal for me - I guess it is differences in tuition.

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