Is it possible that the phrase is correct?

"To do or to do not that is the question."

I know that the usual order would be: "To do or not to do"

  • 1
    You can position an infinitive marker before or after the negation indicator (as not to do or to not do), but putting it after the verb itself strikes me as somewhat archaic (as the "fossilised" imperative usage Fear not!). Commented Mar 22, 2017 at 19:08
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    @FumbleFingers I don't think I would call the imperative usage fossilized. It's at least as recent as JFK. My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country. You might say, though, that it has an elevated register.
    – ktm5124
    Commented Mar 22, 2017 at 19:10
  • Not sure if you can quote Shakespeare and improve on him at the same time. If you're quoting, that would call for the not to be form. Furthermore, the original line examines whether life is worth living, but apart from the fame, the phrase 'to be or not to be' is frankly confusing. Commented Mar 22, 2017 at 19:16
  • @ktm5124: Perhaps I'm using "fossilized" a bit loosely. But let's not forget that JFK was speaking over 50 years ago, in a highly stylised register, and in a context that gains "currency" by association with forms such as I'll give you not one but two reasons to believe. I can't imagine Trump today saying Most mainstream news is biased! Believe it not! Commented Mar 22, 2017 at 19:20
  • “Do. Or do not. There is no try."
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Mar 22, 2017 at 20:23

1 Answer 1


I see no reason why "to do not" would be ungrammatical. In fact, there's a novel by Hemingway with the title: To Have and Have Not. The negative adverb, here, is placed after the infinitive.

While this shows that the phrase to do not is grammatical, it does not show that the phrase is idiomatic. In fact, I would recommend against using to do not. First, it does not have much precedent, as this ngram search reveals. Second, it could easily be confused with the phrase to do naught. This play on words might be intentional in the phrase to have not, but not in your case.

  • Agreed - I wouldn't use the sentence on everyday base; but I needed some pathos or uncommon emphasize in the phrase. And thank you for the funny reference to naughty. : )
    – outmind
    Commented Mar 24, 2017 at 21:32

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