Negative infinitive usage



Which of the following sentences is correct?

I was so focused on not making any mistakes.


I was so focused on not to make any mistakes.

Thanks, Charmi

Charmi Sapariya

Posted 2015-04-08T08:48:25.907

Reputation: 473

3I'd prefer: I was focused on making no mistakes – Maulik V – 2015-04-08T08:53:32.913

Thank you Maulik, But ideally NOT places before infinitive right? or insead of NOT we can use NO before Noun. Is there any rule for this? – Charmi Sapariya – 2015-04-08T09:01:36.157


It can take some time (and trial and error) to learn which verbs "accept" a gerund, an infinitive, or both. There are some lists online that can help. Here is one; unfortunately, focus on is not included in that particular list.

– pyobum – 2015-04-08T09:01:49.910

1Just to make what @pyobum implied explicit, "not to make any mistakes" is incorrect while "not making any mistakes" or "making no mistakes" are both correct. – Tom Anderson – 2015-04-08T09:05:44.953

To clarify the point of what I said a few minutes ago, the issue may not (only) be with the negation, but with the main verb in the sentence. We can say both "I preferred not seeing him" and "I preferred not to see him"; on the other hand, we can say "I agreed not to see him," but we can't say, "I agreed not seeing him." – pyobum – 2015-04-08T09:11:52.947

The second sentence is ungrammatical. The preposition "on" requires a noun (or noun-like) object. – Tᴚoɯɐuo – 2015-04-08T12:02:46.480

1Side note: "so" is generally inappropriate here. You would simply say, "I was focused on not making any mistakes". You could use "so" if it is stressed: "I was so focused on not making any mistakes". Or it could work as a clause in a larger sentence, "I was so focused on not making any mistakes that I didn't do anything right." – Jay – 2015-04-08T13:40:03.750



  1. I was so focused on not making any mistakes.

  2. I was so focused on not to make any mistakes.

"Focused" is an adjective. We usually use it in the pattern of adj + on + noun/-ing form (present participle). So the sentence #1 is grammatically correct. As per Maulik's comment, you can also say "I am so focused on making no mistakes.


Posted 2015-04-08T08:48:25.907

Reputation: 26 261

1Maulik's version isn't really preferable. I'm not sure why his comment has upvotes. – snailplane – 2015-04-09T18:10:05.193

Snaiboat, you've got me there! I can't substantiate. It's a matter of preference on my part. I have realized I should not have said so. I have edited my answer to make it more general and impersonal. Thanks. – Khan – 2015-04-10T02:15:05.080

@Khan, Thank you for sharing. Could you pls tell, is the same rule applicable for other pattern like Adj + Of or Upon or From + noun/-ing form (present participle)? or Not. – Charmi Sapariya – 2015-04-10T10:20:42.253

@snailboat I upvoted Maulik's comment because he gave a grammatical alternative the OP hadn't listed (and one of the OP's sentences was ungrammatical), not about his preference. (In all fairness, he didn't say that it was the preferable alternative, just what he'd prefer. Then again, it's easy to read his saying "I'd prefer" as a suggestion that what he'd prefer is the preferable alternative, which could be misleading. :-) – Damkerng T. – 2015-04-10T10:28:51.473