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Thread: to not, not to


    • Join Date: Aug 2005
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    #1

    to not, not to

    Hi, I was reading some threads and one of them reminded me of something that I was always confused about,
    `I want you to not be hurt` was the original sentence and I wanted to ask if it would mean the same if the author wrote `I want you not to be hurt`.
    And which of those sentences means `I don`t want you to be hurt`?


    • Join Date: Jun 2005
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    #2

    Re: to not, not to

    `I want you to not be hurt`-doesn't sound correct to me at all
    `I want you not to be hurt`-sounds correct but odd
    `I don`t want you to be hurt`-sounds ok to me
    Anyone else please comment

  1. Casiopea's Avatar

    • Join Date: Sep 2003
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    #3

    Re: to not, not to

    To add to trustM's advice, both [1] and [2] express the same meaning:

    [1] I want you to not be hurt.
    [2] I want you not to be hurt.

    Some speakers might find sentence [1] ungrammatical because the adverb "not" occurs between "to" and "be". You see, "to be" is an infinitive verb, and according to traditionalists, those who'd like to see the language stay the same, and not undergo any change, the rule is, one should never split an infinite, which we have done in [1]:

    [1] I want you to not be hurt.

    But, but . . . there are grammarians, the descriptivists, those who describe how speakers use language, who would find sentence [1] perfectly acceptable. The argument there is, "not" is moved for emphasis:

    [1] I want you to NOT be hurt. (capitals represent emphasis)

    Another--and probably less complicated--way to phrase [1] and [1] would be,

    [3] I do not want you to be hurt. / I don't want you to be hurt.

    Here "not" is added to the main verb.

    All three example sentences are acceptable, and express the same basic meaning: I don't want you to be hurt.

    All the best,

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