Cannot or Can Not

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  1. Bedbugabscond profile image96
    Bedbugabscondposted 3 years ago

    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?

    1. wilderness profile image97
      wildernessposted 3 years agoin reply to this

      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.  smile  Better to use a single word indicating a negative.

    2. ceciloiiii profile image74
      ceciloiiiiposted 3 years agoin reply to this

      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.

      For example:

      (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.

  2. gposchman profile image79
    gposchmanposted 3 years ago

    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

    Gene Poschman

  3. Millionaire Tips profile image90
    Millionaire Tipsposted 3 years ago

    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.

    1. gposchman profile image79
      gposchmanposted 3 years agoin reply to this

      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.

      Gene Poschman


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