Macquarie Dictionary Blog: Archives
Spelling matters: 'can not' or 'cannot'
Jun 30, 2010
A correspondent has raised the matter of the difference between can not and cannot. I don't see it as a British/U.S./Australian difference but as a question of emphasis.
I cannot see the point.
With the emphasis on cannot.
I can not see the point.
With the emphasis on the not.
There are contexts where you deliberately go for can not -- where the not is part of another construction.
I can not only swim out a fair way but actually reach the other side.
I can do it or not do it as I choose.
The sentence: I can not do my homework if that is how I feel.
Is quite different from: I cannot do my homework however much I try.
Do you make any distinction between can not and cannot?
Want some help with other common confusables? Check out our other comparison blogs
- aitch versus haitch
- can not versus cannot
- compliment versus complement
- dependent versus dependant
- dispatch versus despatch
- effect versus affect
- far-fetched versus far-flung
- hijack versus highjack
- hunker down versus bunker down
- jail versus gaol
- just deserts versus just desserts
- licence versus license
- myriad versus myriad of
- practice versus practise
- program versus programme
- skol versus scull
- sneaked versus snuck
- while versus whilst
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