I would like to know if it's correct to say/write the following sentence:

"She promised to not tell anyone"

or if the only correct structure of negative clauses is to use "not" before "to", in this case:

"She promised not to tell anyone".

Another examples:

  • I was convinced to not go sleep early.

  • I decided to not clean the bedroom.

  • She was brave enough to not study for the test.

Thank you very much! :)

closed as off-topic by Jason Bassford, Chappo, JJJ, jimm101, K J May 27 at 2:54

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  • 2
    not to X is the standard construction. Sometimes to not X is used instead - it's not wrong, just different. The not doing is framed as something active, so I decided to not smoke means something like I decided to refrain from smoking. There's more of an idea of changing your mind or resisting something. Many times there isn't much difference between the two word orders, in which case you can just use I decided not to smoke. This can be used in any situation really so is the safest option. – Minty May 25 at 5:42
  • @Minty I don't see any distinction in meaning between 'I decided not to smoke' and 'I decided to not smoke' - they are simply grammatical variants - with the latter example considered incorrect by pedants. – mattxxx4 May 25 at 7:34
  • @mattxxx4 I have noticed that US speakers will say use the to not X where for me it should be not to X. I'm not sure what variant you speak but perhaps there is no distinction in AmE / for some speakers of AmE. The grammar / syntax is different though - one is I decided to do not-X, whereas the other is I decided not to do X. In my variant of English there's a corresponding difference in meaning, even if it's often subtle. – Minty May 25 at 8:54
  • @Minty it would be helpful if you can outline the subtle difference in meaning between the two - as I am not aware of any difference of meaning in any variety of English, and I remain curious. – mattxxx4 May 25 at 11:09
  • @mattxxx4 I'm not sure I can improve on what I've put above. The semantic difference comes right out of the logical difference, I'd say, which is is that [I did (not-X)] presents me as having done something, albeit a negative thing, whereas [I (not-did) X] presents me as not having done something. I only use the first construction when there's a change of mind or a resolution or something along those lines - an especially positive exercise of will behind the not-doing - and even then I use it rarely. I don't think it's just me but I can't say I've researched it... – Minty May 25 at 12:19