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Word comparisons

Note 108 – ‘Cannot’ and ‘can not’

The Oxford Dictionaries online explains that “both the one-word form cannot and the two-word form can not are acceptable, but cannot is more common”. 

There are, however, occasions where the word ‘can’ needs to be separated from ‘not’.  This is where the word ‘not’ belongs to another part of the sentence. 

Consider the following three examples:

  1. I can not only read French, but I can speak it as well
  2. I cannot believe the price of petrol these days
  3. I can not believe the price of petrol these days

In example 1, it is correct to have ‘not’ as a separate word because it’s part of the phrase ‘not only’, where as in example 2 ‘cannot’ is correctly shown as one word.  Example 3 is also correct, but not as common as saying ‘cannot’ (as explained in the introduction).

My thoughts: I would say that it’s up to the individual whether they use example 2 or 3, but personally I would use 2, as it reads better.

I hope you enjoyed today’s blog. Don’t forget that you can subscribe to receive my daily blogs by email so that you don’t miss any. Just click ‘sign me up’ on the home page. Alternatively you can follow my blogs on Twitter – @madeirasandra.

Until tomorrow…


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Reference list:

The Oxford Dictionaries online


About Sandra Madeira

I am a full-time working mum with a passion for writing and inspiring others. Please let me know what you think of my blog - constructive comments welcome. Have a great day Sandra Freelance Writer


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