When doing a project-wide replace, a warning says “This can not be undone” but should read “This cannot be undone.”
cannot |ˈkanɒt, kaˈnɒt| contraction
English modal verbs
The modal verbs of English are a small class of auxiliary verbs used mostly to express modality (properties such as possibility, obligation, etc.). They can be distinguished from other verbs by their defectiveness (they do not have participle or infinitive forms) and by the fact that they do not take the ending -(e)s in the third-person singular.
You’re quite right, and I thank you for the correction.
Consider this: some people, like me, will see it as wrong. No one will see “cannot” as wrong.
Cannot Versus Can Not
If you look up “cannot” in the dictionary, the definition usually says “a form of can not” or an “incapacity, inability or withholding permission.” From this, it is easy to assume that both spellings are correct. Technically speaking, the two spellings are interchangeable; however, modern convention and preference use the spelling “cannot.” Most modern word-processing software even highlights the use of “can not” as grammatically incorrect. In addition, specific style guides may give the distinction for this preference as well. When writing for Write.com, always use “cannot” rather than “can not.”
“Can not” may seem, in print, a needless variation, although, given a different contingent of syntax-morphology police, “cannot” might have been the one deemed superfluous.
However, if you work hearing words as much as writing them, you may find a useful – even a necessary – distinction: “cannot” pronounced as a single word is an ordinary negative. “Can not” forces an awareness of two separate ideas, where negation usually is stressed; in short, “can not” can be a significantly more emphatic negation.
I’m not sure “why” but I see the cannot variant as wrong.Words are supposed to separated by a space so …
Can’t is a valid contraction though. I can’t see what the real point of cannot is…
LOL, it’s such a contentious issue that the Government of Canada had to weigh in too:
A quick search of my current project reveals I apparently prefer can not over cannot by a score of 2-0. No idea if I do that consistently though.
Serious question: What is an example of the a time when “not” isn’t part of a set phrase (and is still proper english)?
All I can come up with is slang that is “de-conjunted”. Ex “I just can’t!” -->> “I just cannot!” (both of which have me reaching for a brick to apply to my own head).