from The BBC Learn English: We don't use to + the infinitive with 'not'. For example, I wouldn't say "I went to bed not to watch TV." That doesn't make sense. I would prefer to use a different verb to express the negativity. For example ''I went to bed to avoid watching TV''. However, we do use 'not' and the infinitive when we make a contrast with 'but', so for example, "I went to bed not to sleep, but to watch TV."

IELTS Liz uses to + infinitive in an examplary essay to provide a band 9, which is the maximum score, example. I can't provide you with the video as it's a paid one so there's no public link. But she wrote this essay as a 'perfect one' not a 'rarely perfect one'. enter image description here

So is it correct to write to + infinitive with not?

  • Even the BBC writes rubbish sometimes. I went to bed not to watch TV is a bit unlikely, but it's perfectly valid English. Consider I come not to bury Caesar... which is considered to be not just "valid", but positively high quality English. Just because the BBC's version doesn't continue with a but- clause doesn't alter the fact that it's basically the same syntax. And it could be "reduced" from I went to bed not to watch TV but to read my book. Nov 26, 2022 at 21:46
  • @FumbleFingers Isn't it I come to bury Caeasar? Nov 26, 2022 at 21:55
  • I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him. However we should not take grammar lessons from Shakespeare, he is writing Early Modern English, and the rules were different then (and he doesn't always follow the rules of EME either)
    – James K
    Nov 26, 2022 at 22:19

1 Answer 1


"This teaches them not to waste money" is a perfectly natural way of saying it. You can also switch the order of "to" and "not", so "this teaches them to not waste money". Both have the same meaning.

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