Is "cant" a spelling or grammar mistake?

I know using "where" instead of "were" and similar mistakes are grammatical errors. But is using "cant" instead of "can't"? Why is it one rather than the other?

Many thanks.

EDIT: I was not aware when writing this that "cant" was a word on it's own. My question is that if it weren't would the mistake be spelling or grammar. For example if you write down "werent" instead of "weren't".

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    Cant is a noun in its own right, so isn't automatically a mistake. But using the word where you mean can't is always an error; sadly that does not mean it does not happen. – Tim Lymington supports Monica May 9 '17 at 20:16
  • @sumelic Thanks for checking, I did see this; I knew can't was a contraction but wasn't aware that cant was a word by itself :) – Elise May 9 '17 at 20:28
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    Yes, using "cant" when "can't" is meant is a spelling error. Note that the possible duplicate is itself highly downvoted. – Mitch May 9 '17 at 21:11
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    Cormac McCarthy writes "cant" all the time, in No Country for Old Men you'll find quotes such as "You cant help but feel it". Though this is not specific to can't, he removes apostrophes all over. I've seen it done on purpose in job advertisements from investments banks in London as well. But to answer your question, it would be a spelling error, not a grammatical error, like @Mitch pointed out. – Gelb May 10 '17 at 1:50

Yes, it's a spelling mistake. The word "can't" is (in this case) a contraction of "can not", and while the apostrophe is rather vestigial of when "can't" wasn't broadly considered its own word, it remains as part of the correct spelling.


Where and were are two separate words, and as you've discovered, usually the mistake comes about as a spelling error. This is exactly the same case with can't and cant. Can't is a contraction of cannot, and cant is a completely different word with its own definition.

  • Thank you :) if "cant" wasn't already word, would this still count as a spelling mistake? – Elise May 9 '17 at 20:32
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    I'm sorry, I somehow missed this. Yes, it would qualify as a spelling error. Even as it is, it still counts as a spelling error, because the word you want isn't the one you spelled. – Lee Goldberger May 17 '17 at 0:14

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