My question is my doubt. What is the correct structure?


I believe both are grammatically correct.

IMO, "not to do" puts more emphasis on negation whereas "to not do" focuses on the verb itself. For your sake of using imperative as a prohibition/restriction, here are my suggestions as samples:

I told you not to take it outside! (Remember not to take it outside)

I told you to not throw it out! (Remember to not throw it out)

In terms of speech, stress would play a big role to convey the style and clarity.

P.S. When in doubt, always think back to Hamlet:

To be, or not to be...

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  • My guess is that "not to do" is the normal thing and "to not do" is a variant that is not so frequent. But there is no difference. It seems that some speakers prefer the second variant. – rogermue Sep 26 '14 at 6:33
  • But if I'm giving an advice "I told you" doesn't seem to fit well. Can I use it as imperative even being in the past? Is it normal to say that? – I Wanna Know Sep 27 '14 at 15:45
  • @IWannaKnow "imperative in the past" seems to be a reinforcement or correction to an existing order to me (hence you used Remember). Two versions were provided for comparison sake. Besides being normal, I think it depends heavily on your style/intention. – Crosscounter Sep 27 '14 at 15:57
  • That's what I thougth. It's used as a reinforcement. Thanks for answering. – I Wanna Know Sep 27 '14 at 16:09

Both will probably succeed in expressing what you want. I would recommend: "remember to not" however because of a distinction that probably won't matter here but has philosophical import.

In Latin and medieval philosophy, there's a distinction between volo, non volo, and nolo ("I will", "I do not will", "I will against" or "I will not to"). In the case of verbs of will, there's a clear distinction between cases where you will to do something, you will to not do something, and you will not to / will against doing something. In such cases the sequence matters as to what's being negated.

I will to eat ice cream

I will to not eat ice cream

I will not to eat ice cream

Depending on the language user, a distinction might be meant between the second two with "will to not" being an act of will whose content is "to not eat ice cream" whereas the latter becomes a negating act of will against the idea of eating ice cream.

My sense, however, is that this distinction will be utterly lost and meaningless in all but the most technical contexts and then only for a subset of verbs related to willing and thinking. I think remembering might qualify as one of those.

So I would recommend "remember to not ..." and would not recommend "remember not to" for fear that the negation will be applied to the remembering rather than to that which is to be remembered.

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  • I undestood your point but I guess the context will not allow people imagine we are telling them to not remember when saying "remember not to..." – I Wanna Know Oct 26 '14 at 16:45

In my view there is no difference. Normally the negative infinitive has the structure not to do as in Hamlet's to be or not to be. Some speakers seem to prefer the variant to not do, but it is by far not so frequent as the first structure.

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a classic negative "do this" dialog comes from Hamlet:

For who that's but a queen, fair, sober, wise... would from a paddock, from a bat, a gib... such dear concernings hide? Who would do so? No... in despite of sense and secrecy... unpeg the basket on the house's top... let the birds fly, and like the famous ape... to try conclusions in the basket creep... and break your own neck down.

Hamlet tells mom (Gertrude) "go ahead and squeal on me to that rat king like any reasonable person would..."

Modern English equivalent: For who but a queen that's fair, sober, wise… would hide from a toad, from a bat, a tomcat... such important secrets? Who would do so? No... give in to common sense and the urge to tell… open the basket on the rooftop… let the birds fly away, and like the famous ape… to try to fly yourself climb into the basket… and break your own neck on the way down.

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