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    • Join Date: Dec 2006
    • Posts: 7
    #1

    Question can not & cannot

    My dictionary explains the meaning of the word cannot as 'can not'. I am curious about the use of the phrase 'can not' and the word 'cannot'. My personal preference would be to use the word 'cannot' in all situations, as to my mind the single word usually reads better. I can think of a situation where a person might say: "I can not do this!" in a situation where they are frustrated and angry, and are emphasising each word. I am wondering if you could give other examples where the phrase 'can not' cannot be replaced with 'cannot'.
    Thanks
    David

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    • Join Date: Aug 2006
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    #2

    Re: can not & cannot

    Quote Originally Posted by das1404 View Post
    My dictionary explains the meaning of the word cannot as 'can not'. I am curious about the use of the phrase 'can not' and the word 'cannot'. My personal preference would be to use the word 'cannot' in all situations, as to my mind the single word usually reads better. I can think of a situation where a person might say: "I can not do this!" in a situation where they are frustrated and angry, and are emphasising each word. I am wondering if you could give other examples where the phrase 'can not' cannot be replaced with 'cannot'.
    Thanks
    David
    Hi Das

    As far as I know, the negative form cannot of the modal can is more formal than the other two forms :can`t and can not.

    I know that the form can not is used to emphasize - as you have already said- the idea expressed in the sentence. The form can`t is mostly used in all types of contexts.

    I have to underline the fact that I`m not an expert and that these are my conclusions after some time spent on studying English.

    All the best.


    • Join Date: Oct 2006
    • Posts: 19,434
    #3

    Re: can not & cannot

    I agree that "cannot" is often preferable, but in those contexts where "not doing something" as opposed to "doing something", the "can not" is better.

    The doctor can not prescribe that drug - it is his decision.
    Why can you not agree with me?

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