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"George vows never to buy Elaine lunch again."

I have two questions:

  1. never to do — Is it proper grammar? I know I can say not to do.
  2. to never do — Since the 60's the popularity of this structure is rapidly increasing. What confuses me is that never is put between to and verb, when to verb is the rigid infinitive construction.
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There's nothing rigid about infinitive constructions. There is no rule against "splitting infinitives" in English. – snailplane Mar 2 '14 at 10:08
I am astonished (and gratified) that it has taken thirteen months for this question to be raised here. On ELU it took three weeks. – StoneyB Mar 2 '14 at 12:05
up vote 4 down vote accepted

Both are correct; you can choose which sounds better in the sentence - "never to do" may allow more emphasis on never (IMO), but "to never do" is probably more common.

To answer your questions directly:

  1. 'Never to do' is grammatically sound.
  2. 'To never do' is also grammatically sound. Splitting infinitives is fine.
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According to books.google.com/ngrams/…, today never to do is 10 times more popular than to never do in writing. Forty years ago it was 100 times more popular. – Graduate Mar 2 '14 at 11:04
Very interesting. In spoken English, I suspect 'to never do' is more common. Many people try to avoid splitting infinitives in writing, and you can choose to also, but there is no rule against it (in English), as snailplane rightly comments. – Chris M Mar 2 '14 at 11:16
Further reading: lel.ed.ac.uk/~gpullum/grammar/splitinf.html – snailplane Mar 2 '14 at 11:44

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