Another Grammatical Interlude

I am not a great writer. I like to think I'm okay though. You can judge for yourself with a new eBook I wrote:

Yes, that was a moment of shameless self-promotion. Don't worry. It'll be the last one for this post. For the rest of this post I'll be discussing an issue of grammar because of a humorous example I came across earlier today. If you don't care about grammar, I suggest skipping this post.

The example I came across was on the site of a person who goes by the username Victor Venema. He had written a post which said:

Donald, even if Comey were prime evil himself, you can not fire someone who is investigating you. (Even if Democrats did or do not like him.)

Which refers to how President trump fired the head of the FBI while the man was investigating him and his administration. It is a bit strange a man can fire the person who is investigating him, but I wouldn't go as far to say there is never a time this action couldn't be correct. I also wouldn't say the President "can not" do it. But that's because I know a bit about grammar.

To be clear, I'm not trying to give Venema a hard time here. I'm teasing him a bit, but it's not mean-spirited. Mistakes in blog posts happen all the time. I've made plenty myself. I just thought this mistake was funny because it has such an impact on what he was saying.

For those who don't know, the words "cannot" and "can not" do not mean the same thing. There are times where they may be used interchangeable, but there are also times they cannot. Notice, I said "cannot" rather than "can not." I did that because I wanted to say it was impossible.

On the other hand, I can not go to the grocery store tomorrow since I can go later in the week instead. Notice how I said "can not." I said I "can not" go to the grocery store today because I have the option of doing so or not doing so. That is the difference between "cannot" and "can not." Saying you "cannot" do something means you are not able to do it. Saying you "can not" do it means you have to not do it. So when Venema said:

Donald, even if Comey were prime evil himself, you can not fire someone who is investigating you.

I would agree President Trump can choose not to fire someone who is investigating him. When Venema says:

Donald, you can not talk to Comey about ongoing investigations, especially investigations about yourself. (And there is no evidence that Comey informed you.)

I would agree President Trump can choose not to talk to someone about ongoing investigations (particularly since that someone is no longer part of the investigation). When Venema says:

Donald, you cannot write that refraining from investigating you would be a reason not to fire Comey. (The rule of law makes America a free country.)

I would agree... wait a second. Is it that the president "can not" or "cannot" do these things?!

Joking aside, I know this isn't important. I just like grammar, and this example amused me enough to want to talk about this. Who knows? Maybe someone will learn something from this post.

As a final thought, can you tell me whether "can't" in a contraction for "cannot," "can not" or both?


  1. I suppose cann't would be the contraction of cannot. I can not be bothered to look it up, though.

  2. I wish we lived in a world where "cann't" was considered an acceptable word to use Gary.

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