The shocking truth about the words “can not”, in less time than it takes to boil an egg!!
Yes, shocking but true, the words “can not” are generally spelt as one word in modern English usage. “You cannot be serious!”, I hear you cry.
However, I can. When pondering over which way to spell “can not”, invariably you “cannot” avoid this form. Although, you may use the form “can not”, if you wish to place some extra emphasis on the negative.
For example: “You can not be serious!” Or when the “not” forms part of another construction, such as, “…can not only do…”
To make matters more complicated, some people take the view that, “cannot” should be reserved for things that you are, by your very nature, unable to do.
For example, you “cannot” squeeze blood out of a stone.
Following this line of thought, “can not” is reserved for use where there is an element of choice or a restriction of circumstance.
For example, if you “can not” take the dog for a walk today (perhaps it is raining).
This is a choice dictated by circumstance over which you have control, as you could decide to take the dog out anyway.
For most people, “cannot” and “can not” have no difference in meaning and the former is used more commonly.
Of course using the contraction avoids the issue in any case, if you just can´t be bothered!