‘Do Not’ vs. ‘Don’t’: What is the Difference?

By Kelsey Weeks, updated on July 12, 2023

Have you used the word ‘don’t?’ It is a popular word when speaking. Do you ever wonder when you should use ‘do not’ vs. ‘don’t?’ If so, this article will answer your questions on word usage and meanings.

If you need a quick answer to save time:

  • Both do not and don’t mean not to do something.
  • Contractions can be used for brevity.
  • Contractions are not advised for formal writing.

Both phrases are correct, but if you would like to learn how to use them and where to use them, continue reading to learn more.

What is the Difference Between ‘Do Not’ and ‘Don’t?’

Both phrases define when something is not to be done. These words are synonyms and can be used interchangeably when speaking.

  • Using ‘do not’ explains that something should not be done. This is considered the more formal option of the two. It is accepted in all writing styles. Usually, when speaking, people prefer the brevity of a contraction, so they opt for the other option, ‘don’t.’
  • ‘Don’t’ is typically only used when speaking or writing informally, such as in text messages. Although it can be used in writing, it is considered informal to use a contraction.

Other words that are used as contractions to combine two words with ‘not’:

  • Wouldn’t
  • Couldn’t
  • Shouldn’t
  • Isn’t
  • Haven’t
  • Mustn’t
  • Shan’t
  • Aren’t
  • Can’t
  • Didn’t
  • Hasn’t
  • Weren’t
  • Won’t

When combining the words, the apostrophe symbolizes the missing letters. For example, in ‘don’t,’ the combined words are do and not with the ‘o’ being omitted. Typically, this is the case, but sometimes for words like shan’t there may be other additional alterations.

When to use ‘Do Not’ vs. ‘Don’t’

Here are some tips on when to use ‘do not’ vs. ‘don’t.’

  • Use ‘do not’ when writing in a professional setting, like for work or for school.

In this example, you could write:

I do not yet have that certification, but I am currently working on completing it, and will be done by June.

  • Use ‘do not’ when trying to be clear when speaking.

For example, one can say:

 Please do not leave your items behind in the hotel room because we will not be able to come back to retrieve what was lost.  

  • You can use ‘don’t’ when speaking with friends or family.

As an example, someone may say:

I don’t suggest that movie because I saw it last week, and all of the best parts were in the preview.

  • You can also use ‘don’t’ when writing in less formal situations, like in a text message.

You may text someone:

Don’t worry about it. I am thankful for our time spent together.

Definition of ‘Do Not': What Does ‘Do Not' Mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, ‘Do Not’ means:

  • A command or entreaty not to do something.

Synonyms of ‘Do Not’

  • Ban
  • Interdiction
  • Proscription
  • Prohibition
  • Taboo
  • Prohibition
  • Veto
  • Bar
  • Forbidding
  • Barring
  • Restriction
  • Injunction

Antonyms of ‘Do Not’

  • Do
  • OK
  • Prescription
  • Allowing
  • Aid
  • Allowance
  • Approval
  • Assistance
  • Freedom
  • Help
  • Permission

Definition of ‘Don’t': What Does ‘Don’t' Mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, ‘don’t’ means:

  • A rule forbidding something.
  • Do not.

Synonyms of ‘Don’t’

  • Disallowing
  • Not allowed
  • Shied
  • Back off
  • Ban
  • Abstain
  • Avoid

Antonyms of ‘Don’t’

  • Acceptance
  • Encouragement
  • Lawlessness
  • Persevere
  • Go on
  • Resume
  • Persist
  • Continue

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce 'Do Not’ vs. ‘Don’t’

It is important to learn how to pronounce words so that you can use English words both in writing but also when speaking. This will help make you confident in the usage of the word, no matter the circumstance.

  • The phonetic spelling of 'do not' is:

                Do naat

  • The phonetic spelling of 'don’t' is:


Sample Sentences Using 'Do Not'

Review these sample sentences to learn to use ‘do not’ when speaking and writing professionally.

  • I was instructed by my professor, “Do not complete this assignment without reviewing the syllabus.” There are always very clear directions for each assignment in the syllabus.
  • Do not linger when you are walking through the exhibits. It can agitate the animals as you walk through their perceived territory.
  • In the case of writing formal essays, do not use contractions. It is seen as informal and may off put your reader to your academic writing.
  • They do not want us to leave without giving a tip. Ensure that it is at least worth their time.
  • When traveling, do not forget to plan the stop options before the trip. This way, you will know when places are open and can plan accordingly.
  • Please do not forget to turn in your project by the end of business today. We need to have it ready for the presentation to the CEO tomorrow.

Sample Sentences Using 'Don’t'

Review these sample sentences to learn how to use ‘don’t’ in speaking and writing.

  • I was making a dos and don’ts list for deep cleaning one’s house, and I wondered what you would add to it. So far, I have about ten for each section of the list.
  • The advice my friend gave me was, “Don’t order through their website. It is better to give them a call.” I understand why now because you can make many additional specifications on the phone.
  • Don’t worry about coming to the house tomorrow. I heard you have a lot going on, and I want you to take care of yourself.
  • I am thinking that I don’t want to continue to grow my hair out. It feels like it is time to cut it short again since it is summer and hot outside.
  • Please don’t forget to turn off the electronics in the house, like the T.V. and the lights. I do not like coming home to all of it still on when no one is home.
  • They don’t come to town often because they are able to grow their crops on their land. They even have meat sources out of town, so it is just a once-a-month trip.

Closing Words on ‘Do Not’ vs. ‘Don’t’

When reviewing the information on ‘do not’ vs. ‘don’t,’ a quick summary is:

  • Both word choices mean to refrain from doing something.
  • ‘Do not’ can be used to be clear or formal.
  • ‘Don’t’ can be a quicker option when communicating.

To summarize, ‘do not’ vs. ‘don’t’ are both ways of asking or telling someone not to do something. Although both are excellent options, you may prefer to use one over another in different circumstances. As a reminder, contractions are not generally used in formal writing.

All posts on our website explain how to use tricky words correctly. Check back frequently to reduce the errors in your writing. You can find additional resources on English words in the confusing words section.

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Written By:
Kelsey Weeks
Kelsey Weeks is currently a school counselor at a high school and a previous English teacher. She loves helping others with literacy, learning more, and exploring nature. She has an undergrad in English with an emphasis on secondary education and an M.A. in Applied Psychology from NYU.

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