There is a word, or maybe it is two words, I can not seem to figure out. Google has been of little help to me. I thought I would ask the experts here on Hubpages. Is it can not or cannot?
Of a half dozen dictionaries, only one (Webster Miriam) lists "can't" as a contraction of "can not". All others indicate "cannot".
Personally I cannot see that a positive immediately followed by a negation makes a lot of sense. Better to use a single word indicating a negative.
The two can come apart in meaning depending on the context of the sentence, which means that the correct choice can depend on the sentence as a whole.
(1) I can not go outside
(2) I cannot go outside
The logical structure of (1) implies that the speaker has the ability to not go outside, to remain inside. The logical structure of (2) implies that the speaker is unable to go outside.
Of course, this assumes that we maintain the logical structure of "can not" vs "cannot" which is not always the case, as "correct" meanings for words are much by way of use. In this case, many do cite a usage of the two that are equal in meaning with each other. I'd still contend that the two can still come apart in meaning, although not obviously, when read by most English speakers in sentences that mean two very different things.
From the dictionary
1350-1400; Middle English
Cannot is sometimes also spelled can not. The one-word spelling is by far the more common: Interest rates simply cannot continue at their present level.The contraction can't is most common in speech and informal writing.
Either is correct, cannot is now more common, or is it can't. Hmmmmmmmm
That is a good question, to which I don't have an answer.
Generally I think I use the words interchangeably since I think they mean the same thing. In my personal experience, I am more likely to separate the words to enunciate my writing so that the "not" is read clearly. If I read it out loud, I would slightly stress the "not" in "can not" without shouting it, and in cannot, the accent would be on the "can". Yes, I know the dictionary allows both pronunciations of "cannot", so I really can't control how the audience reads it.
That really is the key from a writers point of view, not so much as to which is correct, as how will the reader perceive it. Unfortunately I can only hear it in my own head while writing. It makes a good case for hearing other people read what you have written. I have several readers who keep me in line, but what really gets interesting is when they start arguing about what I meant. Then I know I must have succeeded somewhere.
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