Article »

cannot, can not, cannot but

This article is about cannot, can not, cannot but — enjoy your reading!

Use one word, not two. Thus: cannot.

Can’t is the contracted form of cannot, meaning the negative of can. In formal writing, it is perfectly acceptable to use contractions.

Some object to the idiomatic expressions cannot but and can but, criticizing them as double negatives. But these expressions find support and considerable use among top writers. The but in cannot but means “except,” much like the expression “no one but.” Thus:

I cannot but wonder about his methods of leadership.

These days, you’re more likely to encounter cannot help but:

I cannot help but wonder about his methods of leadership.

Example: She cannot win the race because of her recent illness.

Have a discussion about this article with the community:


Use the citation below to add this article to your bibliography:


"cannot, can not, cannot but." STANDS4 LLC, 2017. Web. 19 Nov. 2017. <>.

Free Writing Tool:

Grammar Checker

Improve your grammar, vocabulary, and writing -- and it's FREE!

Improve your writing now:

Download Grammar eBooks

It’s now more important than ever to develop a powerful writing style. After all, most communication takes place in reports, emails, and instant messages.