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Cannot or Can Not: How to Use Can Not vs. Cannot Correctly

Cannot or can not! When you say that you are unable of doing something, do you say that you cannot or can not do that? Both these spellings are acceptable and can be found in formal writing, and yet their meaning is slightly different. Read on to figure out what’s this difference and to never confuse these two phrases again.

Cannot or Can Not

CANNOT is used when you say that you aren’t able to do something. On the other hand, CAN NOT is used when can comes before the phrase “not only… but also“.

For example, you might say that you cannot wait for the summer holidays. Or, when you see something absolutely extraordinary right in front of you, you might say that you cannot believe that this is happening. If you’re writing to a friend, you might also use the contraction can’t instead. However, as contractions don’t belong in formal writing, in most cases, you should use cannot.

Now, can not isn’t a synonym for cannot and you can’t use them interchangeably. Imagine that you ask your mother if you can eat the cookies that you bought today. If your mother’s in a good mood, she might say, “You can not only eat these cookies, but also a piece of that big chocolate cake”. What she means is that you can eat both cookies and a cake, and this is why can not is spelled as two words.

You might also see can not spelled as two words in commercials. For example, you might read that a new beauty product can not only make you look five years younger but also make your skin look fresh and glowing.

To sum up, whenever you need an antonym for can, you can use cannot in formal writing or can’t in informal. But if you have a phrase “not only… but also”, can not is the spelling you should go for.

Cannot vs. Can Not Examples

  • You cannot make a crab walk straight.
  • Time past cannot be called back again.
  • She cannot afford a new dress.
  • The athletes cannot compete in any athletic events while suspended.
  • cannot only grow begonias, but also identify them.
  • Roads can not only ruin the countryside, but also divide communities.
  • This product can not only smooth throat, but also cure the common faucitis and stomatocace effectively.
  • The CIP system can not only clean the medicines, but also control the microorganism’s cleaning.
  • It can not only cure the disease, but also postpone caducity and strengthen the body.
  • Prompt action by local people can not only prevent ultimate demolition, but also save many thousands of pounds in repair costs.

How to Use Can Not or Cannot | Image

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Cannot or Can Not: When to Use Cannot or Can Not


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