Cannot or can not – which form is correct?

Cannot and can not – these two spellings cause many problems for most writers. Maybe you can use cannot and you cannot use can not? Or is it the other way round? All this sounds a bit like a tongue twister and… like a puzzle that we’re going to solve! Improve your English language and learn all about cannot and can not with our helpful explanation and examples!

Cannot or can not Which form is correct meaning definition correct form difference examples

Cannot or can not – which one is the correct form? Is cannot one word or two words?

We cannot deny that both cannot (a single word) and can not (two words) are fine. There is no incorrect form here. However, cannot is used more frequently and is recommended especially in formal writing. It is possible to see can and not as two separate words. It’s worth mentioning that there’s also a word can’t, which is a contraction of cannot. Can’t is best suited for informal writing.

What do cannot and can not mean?

The definition of cannot is to be unable to do otherwise than. Cannot is the negative form of can. It is the most appropriate choice for research studies and professional presentations. If your intended meaning is cannot, you should avoid using can not. It sounds complicated, but it’s not!

Cannot or can not – what’s the difference?

Sometimes, those two phrases have the same meaning. The main difference between those two words is that cannot – the closed form – is much more common and formal. Can not is sometimes written as separate words and occasionally used as an alternative to cannot. It also shows up when not is just a part of something which comes right after can. We mean, for example, can not only – when using “not only… but also” construction.

What are the synonyms of the words cannot and can not?

As you already know, you should rather use cannot, especially in formal sentences. But what to use instead cannot?

  • Incapable of,
  • unable to,
  • can’t.

Cannot or can not? Now it is all clear! Examples from literature

And, most important of all,” added the Mathemagician, “here is your own magic staff. Use it well and there is nothing it cannot do for you.

Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth

Hunger devours me, I could almost weep for something to eat, I cannot struggle against it.

Maria Remarque,All Quiet on the Western Front: A Novel

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Graduate of English philology. Currently a student of internet marketing. She previously worked as a shopping assistant, associate consultant and kindergarten English teacher. Currently working as a copywriter. Privately mother of two children. Loves reading books and spending time actively.