Is the following wording okay?

He can not only do this, but also do that.

In this case, it seems that the writer is dividing 'cannot' into two words. Is that acceptable?

  • Fancy fan, context might well be vital and either way, how does that Question belong here rather than somewhere like English Language Learners, please? Dec 14 '17 at 20:06
  • There's no cannot -- (He can) (not only) (...). Parse it right.
    – Kris
    Aug 1 '18 at 8:09
  • The question is based on incorrect parsing.
    – Kris
    Aug 1 '18 at 8:09

"Can not" is the original form, "cannot" and "can't" being contractions; all three are acceptable when referring to someone's inability to do something. However, in the sentence you quote, "not" modifies "only" rather than "can" so the contractions can not (or cannot or can't) be used. This becomes clearer if the sentence is changed to "He can do not only this but also that". You will notice that "not" changes place along with "only" rather than remaining next to "can".

  • how about: You can understand not only better but also learn from other students in the study group......is this sentence ok?
    – fancy fan
    Dec 12 '17 at 6:21
  • @fancyfan It doesn't make much sense to me, probably because the parts of the sentence referred to by the "not only but also" construction are not equivalent. "You can understand not only more widely but also more deeply" makes sense as does "You can learn not only from the text books but also from the other members of the study group" but your sentence compares a quality of understanding with a method of learning. That is illogical.
    – BoldBen
    Dec 12 '17 at 6:58

In case if can not is used as two separate words as above,it's okay!! But it's not appropriate to use "do "again in the second sentence.

  • 1
    What's wrong with the second "do"?
    – JPmiaou
    Dec 22 '17 at 3:59

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.