To Not or Not To (Best Overview: Difference And Use In Contracts)

Is it to not or not to?

What’s the difference between not to and to not?

How should it be used in a sentence or when drafting contracts?

We will look at not to vs to not, look at how they are used in a sentence, look at the grammar rules, the nuances from a legal and contractual point of view and look at examples.

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Not to vs to not

What is the difference between “to not” and “not to”?

Let’s break this down a little bit.

The word “to” is the infinitive of a verb (“to be”, “to act”, “to speak”).

Typically, the infinitive “to” is written next to its verb (to (infinitive) speak (verb)).

Grammarians say that we should not split the infinitive from its verb.

For example:

You should write “not to run” instead of “to not run
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In common speech and writing, however, we often split the infinitive from its verb.

By splitting the “to” from its verb, you actually put an emphasis on the adverb used in between.

For example:

“They decided not to drive the car in poor conditions” vs “they decided to not drive the car in poor conditions”
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Not to or to not grammar

You can write “not to” or “to not” although “not to” may be technically more grammatically correct.

“Not to” is commonly used in formal writing and “to not” is used in common speech or informal writing.

According to the not to or to not grammar, you should keep the infinitive and its verb together.

For example:

You should say “not to run” as you are keeping the infinitive “to” with its verb “run”
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Split infinitive 

Separating the infinitive and its verb is referred to as “infinitive splitting”.

When splitting the infinitive, you can actually put additional emphasis on what is being said.

For example:

“She told me not to go to the park” or “she told me to not go to the park”.

Here the emphasis is on not going to the park.
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“To not” or “not to” in contracts

For the attorneys and lawyers out there, how should you write “to not” or “not to” in contractual provisions or legal documents?

In many cases, where you place the “to” and the “not” will probably not have any impact on the meaning and interpretation of your contract.

In formal writing, the not grammar rule states that the infinitive and the verb be together and we should avoid splitting them.

For example:

The founders and officers of the company have agreed not to register any stock demonstrating their long-term commitment to the shareholders.
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The meaning will not change if you split the infinitive from its verb:

The founders and officers of the company have agreed to not register any stock demonstrating their long-term commitment to the shareholders.
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Here is another example of the infinitive being split in legal writing:

Party A commits to strictly adhere to the guidelines set by the Company and to not register any trademark or domain name similar to that of the Company.
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Not to or not too

To” is a preposition that can mean “until” or “toward” whereas “too” is an adverb that can mean “also”.

Not too or not to is used in different situations and contexts.

You can use “not too” in a sentence as follows:

Even if you have already cast your vote, it is not too late to change it
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In this example, you are using the adverb “too” to suggest that there’s still time left to change your vote.

You can use “not to” in a sentence as follows:

The consultant agrees not to claim any intellectual property rights at any time prior to or after the completion and delivery of the work to the Client
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“Not to” or “not too” are used to express different things and can be validly used in their own way.

To not or not to examples

Let’s look at some examples of how not to or to not are used in sentences.

Here are some combinations that people wonder how to write:

  • To do or not to do 
  • To not be or not to be
  • He told me to not or not to
  • Try to not or not to
  • To not have or not to have
  • To not do or not to do
  • Not to boldly go or not to go boldly 
  • Not to worry or to not worry 
  • How to not or how not to

Purists say that you must not split “to” from its verb.

What you should focus on is the clarity of the message you are trying to get across. 

Focus on the clarity of your message and not on splitting the infinitive from its verb

If you can convey your thoughts or idea in a better way by “splitting” the infinitive from its verb, then that’s what you should aim to do.

You should not worry about whether the other party is going to judge you for having split the infinitive and unconjugated form of a verb.

As for those drafting legal documents and contracts, your focus should be the clarity of the provision and adequately conveying the intention of the parties.

To not or not to FAQ

To Not or Not To FAQ

What’s the difference between “to not” and “not to”

You can use both combinations “to not” or “not to”.

Depending on where you place the infinitive form of a verb will come down to a question of clarity of the message you are trying to convey.

In formal writing, the more common approach is to keep the infinitive “to” with its verb (“not to be”).

In common speech and informal writing, we use the infinitive “to” to split the verb (“to not be”).

Which is correct not to or to not

They can both not to and to not can be used.

Technically, according to grammar rules, you should use “not to (verb)”.

However, in informal writing and speech, we use “to not” very often.

In many cases, using to not vs not to is a question of what is the element of your statement that you want to be emphasized or a question of clarity.

So should we use “not to” or “to not”?

It will come down to:

  • Who is your audience (are they picky or not)
  • Are you writing a formal document or something more informal
  • Is your statement clear

If you enjoyed this article on to not or not to, we recommend that you read the following articles that you may also enjoy:

  • No Later Than (What To Use: No or Not, Than or Then)
  • Aforementioned (Definition, Examples And Use In Contracts)
  • Et Seq (Best Overview: Legal Definition, Meaning, Use And Examples)
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