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Re: Cannot versus can not

Posted by Linda on March 30, 2002

In Reply to: Re: Cannot versus can not posted by TheFallen on March 29, 2002

: : : This isn't a phrase, but I was wondering where I could find the correct useage for cannot versus can not. Isn't there a 'hard fast rule' somewhere that sometimes you can not use the word cannot?
: : : thanks

: : The hard-and-fast rule of usage is that "cannot" is always written as one word, with no space. If you're asking whether any situations call for using a space, I guess one sort of conversational context qualifies, like this: "Should I post my question at the Phrase Finder Discussion Forum? Well, I suppose I CAN post it and wait for an answer--or I can NOT post it and ask my neighbor the copy editor instead."

: At a stretch, I suppose I might write "cannot" as two separate words only if writing dialogue, where there is heavy emphasis on the unacceptability of whatever the couse of action is. I'd probably embolden or capitalise or underline the "not" though. Think tennis, and McEnroe here... he yelled "You can *NOT* be serious, man!", with the stress very heavily on the third syllable of the sentence.

Thanks for your input. I had thought that there was some rule about a 'double negative' or something and if you could use the word 'but' after the 'can not' word you had to separate it.. or something like that! I'm old, but I swear I learned something about that in school. My daughter and I are arguing about it's usage and I just hate the thought of being wrong!! thanks.