cannot or can not?
People often ask me whether they should write cannot (1 word) or can not (2 words).
Cannot is a contraction of can not.
In British English cannot is the normal form.
In American English both forms are acceptable but cannot is more common.
In general I would suggest that you use cannot.
However, note that there are times when you really have to use can not. If the word “not” is part of a set phrase, then you have no choice but to use the two-word form can not. Look for example at the set phrase “not only . . . but (also)”:
- She not only stole the money but she also lied about it.
- He can not only play tennis brilliantly, but he can also swim like a fish.
Note, too, that cannot may be contracted to can’t, but in formal written English (such as in an essay or exam) you are not advised to use can’t.