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Cannot / can NOT

Posted by TheFallen on May 24, 2003

In Reply to: Cannot posted by Henry on May 23, 2003

: : : I've learned a lot on the Internet about the difference between "cannot" and "can not", but it is hard for me to find "authorized" dictionaries, or other "well-known" grammar/usage books which give the details or definitions of the usage, distinction etc. Would you please offer me some links on the web?

: : : Thank you.

: : The Associated Press Stylebook lists "cannot."

: The Guardian newspaper has an on-line style guide. It doesn't have cannot as an entry, but uses it in two other entries, so it appears to support the use of cannot.

: stalemate - Do not use to mean deadlock or impasse: a stalemate is the end of the game, and cannot be broken or resolved
: impracticable - impossible; it cannot be done

"Cannot" is aways acceptable. "Can not" is almost always wrong, except in a case where one wants to draw very strong attention to the negative. Typically this might happen in dialogue, where capitals might also be used to add further emphasis.

"No, you can NOT use my Lalique crystal bowl as a footbath!"

(Yes, yes, before the purists swoop down, I know it should really be "may not", but this is dialogue, and people don't speak that pickily.)

I can't off-hand think of another example where "can not" might be used correctly.