2

Specifically with the following sentence, which is more suitable/correct?

You don't count on humans to not do things they're used to doing.

You don't count on humans not to do things they're used to doing.

7
  • 1
    I'd say the first one, but i'm also one to happily split infinitives just to mildly annoy English teachers. Most of them don't seem to much appreciate it.
    – cHao
    Jun 15, 2018 at 21:31
  • Side comment: "You can't count on..." sounds more natural than "You don't count on..." in this case Jun 15, 2018 at 21:38
  • 1
    The use of "humans" is odd. It seems that you are not a human.
    – James K
    Jun 15, 2018 at 22:53
  • @JamesK that is intentional.
    – zerohedge
    Jun 15, 2018 at 23:08
  • In logic, it could be argued they do not mean exactly the same thing.
    – Lambie
    Jun 15, 2018 at 23:21

2 Answers 2

5

Traditional answer

You don't count on humans not to do things they're used to doing.

Modern answer

Either are okay.

Reason

One "textbook" (possibly outdated) rule is never to break up an infinitive (or to never break up an infinitive). However, at least in modern American English, this rule is followed or not followed as if there wasn't any such rule at all. In other words, whether to use "not to do" and "to not do" seems to come down to personal preference for many.

3

Nowadays 'to not do' is acceptable in less formal contexts, but 'not to do' is still the first choice in more formal ones.

Google Ngram Viewer shows that, even now, 'not to do' is hundreds of times more common than 'to not do'. The use of 'to not do' is growing, but the use of 'not to do' is growing even faster.

ngram graph

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