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I told you don't go to see that movie because it was not good.
I told you not to go to see that movie because it was not good.

Can both be used? If the answer is yes, how do I know when to use "don't", or "not to"?

  • Although the second sentence is grammatically correct, it still doesn't feel like good writing. (a) I think it would be more usual to say "I told you not to go and see...". (b) "because it was not good" feels wrong: you would say "it was not a good movie" rather than "the movie was not good". (c) "I told you" sounds like a command rather than advice; you might tell someone not to see a movie because they have to finish their homework, but if the reason is that it's not a good movie, then it's advice, not a command. Try "I told you that movie wasn't worth seeing". – Michael Kay Mar 1 '17 at 15:36
  • The focus of the question is on "don't" or "not to", so I'm not going to make a whole answer about this, but you should drop the "to" before 'see'. It sounds really odd. So: "I told you not to go see that movie because it was not good" – DCShannon Mar 1 '17 at 21:47
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    "go see" is American, "go to see" or "go and see" is British. – Michael Kay Mar 1 '17 at 21:59
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  • I wouldn't say “I told you go see it,” either. – Anton Sherwood Mar 2 '17 at 6:17
42

The second sentence is correct, all of the tenses are in agreement.

In the first sentence, "I told you" refers to a past event, but "don't" refers to a future event. You could make the sentence correct, though, with punctuation and minor cleanup:

I told you, "Don't go to see that movie because it is not good."

In this case, "I told you" refers to a statement you made in the past, and the quote is what you said at the time. Notice the change from "was" to "is" within the quote, since that's what you would have said at the time.

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    This is precisely correct. That said, I suspect that in casual writing, most readers would understand the first sentence the same way with or without the quotation marks. – jpmc26 Mar 1 '17 at 0:36
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    Alternate quoting, which preserves the "was": I told you "don't go to see that movie" because it was not good. - that is, the "because" explains the "I told you" rather than the "don't go" (Or in other words, the not being good wasn't necessarily mentioned in the past, although it was the reason for the telling.) – R.M. Mar 1 '17 at 0:55
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    I can read the first (don't) version as interrupting somebody as they're going, e.g. catching your brother as he's leaving to see the film. Would need a comma, though. – Jack Mar 1 '17 at 15:37
  • You can also use the first sentence with "is", if you add quotation marks and a colon (I told you: "don't go see that movie because it is not good"). – MorganFR Mar 1 '17 at 16:33
  • @R.M. You still wouldn't use the past tense there. It describes an on-going state. The quality of the movie isn't going to have changed by itself. – jpmc26 Mar 6 '17 at 18:04
13

Consider a simpler sentence:

I like ice cream.

When we want to negate this, in English, we need "do", which is called an auxiliary verb. Just adding "not" is not enough.

*I not like ice cream.
I do not like ice cream.
* marks the utterance as ungrammatical.

Your sentence is a bit different from this, in that its main verb isn't "go", but "tell". "go", and the stuff that surround it ("not to go", as a whole), actually complement (complete) the main verb, "tell". Likewise, "to see" completes "to go", but that's not important.

When "go" is a main verb, like "like" in the example above, you need a "do" if you want to negate it. If, however, it's completing another verb, and is not the main verb, you shouldn't use "do" to negate it.

So the correct sentence, strictly speaking, is

I told you not to go to see the movie because it is not good.

Having said that, you would often see the supposedly ungrammatical sentence as well. That would be because of two reasons: A grammatical error on the speaker's part, or lack of proper punctuation.

I told you "Don't go to see that movie because it's bad."

is perfectly valid, because you're quoting yourself and "Don't go to see that movie because it is not good." is a standalone sentence, with "go" as the main verb.

  • I'm really bothered that none of these answers drops the "to" before see. That sound so incredibly awkward. – DCShannon Mar 1 '17 at 21:45
  • @DCS that's more idiomatic, but this isn't ungrammatical either. I thought it would derail from the purpose of the answer, and it seems people don't like verbose answers lately. – M.A.R. Mar 1 '17 at 22:29
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    @DCShannon In British English, "go see" is getting close to being illiterate. But "go and see" or just "see" are common alternatives to "go to see". – alephzero Mar 2 '17 at 5:04
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    @alephzero One of these days the Brits will learn to speak English. – DCShannon Mar 2 '17 at 17:03
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I feel there's a subtle difference: "I told you not to go..." suggests more formality to me, possibly even berating someone for going regardless of your order - "I told you not to" feels a lot like "I instructed you not to".

"I told you, don't go..." suggests a more conversational tone.

I might choose to take the first tone with a disobedient teenager (especially if I felt like we hadn't argued enough recently) but I wouldn't say that to my partner or a friend. I might however say them "I told you, don't go..." if they go see the film and subsequently complain about its poor quality.

1

I think that both can be correct, but it's an entirely different context.

The first one works, with additional punctuation, if someone is directly quoting what they said:

I told you, "Don't go to see that movie because it was not good."

or (per jwg's comment) -

I told you, "Don't go to see that movie" because it was not good.

The second one works, as is, as it describes an event or action:

I told you not to go to see that movie because it was not good.

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    Also possible: I told you, "Don't go to see that movie" because it was not good. The tenses seem to make more sense with this version. – user6535 Mar 2 '17 at 8:02
  • @jwg - Good point. Edited to include the better fit. – PoloHoleSet Mar 2 '17 at 15:13
0

Both sentences are probably correct but they mean slightly different things.

First thing first, the sentence seems quite odd to me, but more on that at the end.

I told you don't go to see that movie because it was not good.

To me this is a softer "no". It's a suggestion. Like two friends talking, in the future about an upcoming event. like "I don't think you should go see Super Muffin 6, it's not a good movie."

I told you not to go to see that movie because it was not good.

To me this is a harder NO!. It's a command. Like a parent telling a kid not to see a movie, after the fact. "I told you not to go see Naked Parts 3. Your grounded."

The main problem with your two sentences is that it's combining a lot of past and future tense, and both of them are really unclear about what you told when and why.

Are you trying to explain why you told someone not to see a movie? Are you stating that you told some one that the movie was bad and that they shouldn't see it? It's not really clear.

-> Don't go see Slasher 8.
<- Why?
-> Because it's a really bad movie.

or

-> Don't go see Slasher 8, it's a a really bad movie.
<- I saw Slasher 8
-> I told you not to go see that movie because it was really bad. But you didn't listen, so your out $15.

End Result

While both sentences are "correct", I would suggest not using either of them, and using a different set of sentences. Use "don't" for something in the future, and "not" for something in the past. Really try to clarify rather the reason (because it was not good) was part of the original telling, or if your explaining why you "told". Finally use bad instead of not good, or mediocre if the movie was not good, but also not bad (just average). As a bonus, when out of context, "that movie" should be replaced with the movies name.

For example:

I told you, "Don't go see Cartoon Movie 5," because it was a bad.

I actually said the words "Don't go see Cartoon Movie 5" and I am explaining why.

or

I told you "Don't go to see Cartoon Movie 5 because it was bad."

I actually said "Don't go to see Cartoon Movie 5 because it was bad." in the past.

or

I told you not to go see Cartoon Movie 5, because it was bad.

I didn't actually say "not to go see..." but I gave an instruction to avoid Cartoon Movie 5, and the reason why is because it was bad.

or

I told you not to go see Cartoon Movie 5 because it was bad.

I didn't actually say "not to go see..." but I gave an instruction to avoid Cartoon Movie 5 along with the reason why (it was bad). Now were going to discuss that instruction.

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