The negative version of the verb form “can” is the single word “cannot.”
It means being unable to or not being permitted to do something.
The funny thing about the word “cannot” is you can put the accent on either syllable.
I simply cannot tolerate people who drag meetings on and on and on.
I cannot tell the difference between those identical twins.
The contraction of the single word cannot is can’t. This is a more informal usage, particularly popular in the South in the US.
The song “I Can’t Say No,” from the musical Oklahoma!
There are a few special times when you can split the word cannot into two separate words. Those times are when the “not” negates or refers to the verb following it, rather than the word “can” that precedes it. It is an emphatic form of a compound verb.
You can eat it, or you can not eat it – that’s up to you.
I can work here, or I can not work here, depending on whether I have a better offer.
These examples do not express the idea of being able or being permitted to do something; rather, they express a choice between two options: doing it and not doing it.
“I cannot work here” means “I am unable to work here” or “I’m not allowed to work here.”
“I can not work here” means “I am able to not work here; I’m able to work somewhere else.”
“I can’t work here” means there are so many interruptions that I cannot get anything done, so I’m going to find a nice, quiet conference room somewhere so I can be more productive.
Quote of the Day:
“Gravitation cannot be held responsible for people falling in love.”
– Albert Einstein