Do We Know Difference Between Can’t vs Cant?

difference between can't vs cant

Can’t vs cant are two words that sound the same but have different meanings and spellings. They are called homophones, which means they have the same pronunciation but different meanings, origins, or spelling. There are many homophones in English, such as to, too, and two; or there, their, and they’re.

Recognizing the difference between cant and can’t

Can’t is a contraction of can not. It means that something is impossible or not allowed. For example:

  • I can’t go to the party tonight. I have to study for a test.
  • She can’t eat peanuts. She’s allergic to them.
  • He can’t drive a car. He doesn’t have a license.

Cant is a noun that has several meanings. It can mean:

  • A slanted or tilted position or angle. For example: The roof has a steep cant.
  • A special language or jargon used by a specific group of people. For example: The thieves spoke in cant to avoid being understood by the police.
  • Insincere or hypocritical speech or behavior. For example: He was full of cant and pretended to care about the poor.

What is Can’t Meaning

Can’t is a word that expresses the inability or impossibility of doing something. It is a shortened form of can not, which is composed of the modal verb can and the negative particle not. Modal verbs are words that indicate the mood, attitude, or possibility of an action or state.

Can is a modal verb that shows ability, permission, or possibility. For example:

  • She can speak three languages fluently.
  • You can borrow my book if you want.
  • It can rain later today.

Not is a word that negates or denies something. For example:

  • He is not happy with his grade.
  • They are not going to the movies.
  • She does not like chocolate.

When we combine can and not, we get can not, which means the opposite of can. It shows inability, prohibition, or impossibility. For example:

  • He can not swim very well.
  • You can not smoke in this building.
  • It can not be true.

However, in informal speech and writing, we often use the contracted form of can not, which is can’t. We write it with an apostrophe (‘) to show that a letter is missing, which is the o in not. For example:

  • He can’t swim very well.
  • You can’t smoke in this building.
  • It can’t be true.

The meaning of can’t is the same as can not, but it is more common and natural to use the contraction in everyday language.

Can’t Definition

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, can’t is defined as:

Cannot; expressing incapacity or impossibility.

Is there an apostrophe in can t?

Yes, there is an apostrophe in can t when we write it as a contraction of can not. The apostrophe shows that a letter is missing, which is the o in not. For example:

  • I can t believe you did that. (Incorrect)
  • I can’t believe you did that. (Correct)

How to Spell Can’t

The correct way to spell can’t is with an apostrophe between the n and the t. This shows that it is a contraction of can not. For example:

  • I cant go with you. (Incorrect)
  • I can’t go with you. (Correct)

Do We often Use Can’t in text?

Yes, we often use can’t in text messages, emails, social media posts, and other informal forms of communication. Can’t is more common and natural than can not in everyday language. It is also shorter and easier to type on a keyboard or a phone.

However, there are some situations where we should avoid using contractions like can’t and use the full form of can not instead. These include:

  • Formal or academic writing, such as essays, reports, letters, or speeches. Contractions are considered too casual and informal for these types of writing. For example: You cannot use this source without proper citation.
  • Emphasis or clarity, when we want to stress the negative meaning of can not or avoid confusion with other words. For example: You CAN NOT do that! (Emphasis) / He said he could/couldn’t come. (Clarity)

What is Cant Meaning

Cant is a word that has several meanings depending on the context and usage. It is a noun that usually refers to either a slanting position or angle; a special language or jargon used by a specific group of people; or insincere or hypocritical speech or behavior.

Cant Definition

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, cant has three main definitions:

  1. A slanting or oblique line or surface; an inclination from the horizontal or vertical; a slope, a tilt.
  2. The special phraseology or vocabulary of a class, party, profession, etc.; the use of jargon or conventional phrases; also, an instance of this.
  3. Insincere or hypocritical use of pious or moralizing language; also, an instance of this.

How to Spell Cant

The correct way to spell cant is without an apostrophe. It is not a contraction of any other word. For example:

  • The roof has a steep cant. (Correct)
  • The roof has a steep can’t. (Incorrect)

Comparing Can’t vs Cant and Which one is more used?

Can’t vs cant are two words that sound the same but have different meanings and spellings. They are both nouns, but can’t is also a verb. Here is a table that compares some of their features:

FeatureCan’tCant
MeaningCannot; expressing incapacity or impossibilityA slanting or oblique line or surface; an inclination from the horizontal or vertical; a slope, a tilt; The special phraseology or vocabulary of a class, party, profession, etc.; the use of jargon or conventional phrases; also, an instance of this; Insincere or hypocritical use of pious or moralizing language; also, an instance of this
Part of speechNoun, verbNoun
OriginMiddle English, contraction of can notMiddle English, from Old French cant, edge, corner, from Latin canthus, rim of wheel, of Celtic origin
ExamplesI can’t go to the party tonight. / She can’t eat peanuts. / He can’t drive a car.The roof has a steep cant. / The thieves spoke in cant to avoid being understood by the police. / He was full of cant and pretended to care about the poor.

According to Google Ngram Viewer, which tracks the frequency of words in books, can’t is more commonly used than cant in English books. Here is a graph that shows the comparison:

can't vs cant infographic

As you can see, can’t is used about 20 times more than cant in English books.

Tips For Content Writers How to Use Cant or Can’t

Can’t and cant are easy to confuse because they sound the same. However, you can remember the difference by looking at the apostrophe in can’t. The apostrophe shows that a letter is missing, which is the o in not. Cant does not have an apostrophe because it is not a contraction.

Can’t is more commonly used than cant in everyday speech and writing. It means that something is impossible or not allowed. Use it when you want to express incapacity or impossibility.

Cant has several meanings depending on the context and usage. It can mean a slanting position or angle; a special language or jargon used by a specific group of people; or insincere or hypocritical speech or behavior. Use it when you want to describe a slant, a jargon, or a hypocrisy.

Here are some tips for content writers on how to use can’t and cant:

  • Use can’t when you want to express impossibility or prohibition. Make sure to include the apostrophe and use the infinitive form of the verb after can’t. For example: You can’t leave without saying goodbye.
  • Use cant when you want to describe a slant, a jargon, or a hypocrisy. Make sure to spell it without an apostrophe and use it as a noun. For example: The politician’s speech was full of cant and empty promises.
  • Avoid confusing can’t and cant with other similar words, such as won’t (will not), shan’t (shall not), or chant (a repeated rhythmic phrase or song). Check the spelling and meaning of each word before using it.

Cant Synonym

Some synonyms for cant are:

  • Slant
  • Tilt
  • Angle
  • Jargon
  • Slang
  • Lingo
  • Hypocrisy
  • Insincerity
  • Pretense

Can’t Synonym

Some synonyms for can’t are:

  • Unable
  • Incapable
  • Impossible
  • Forbidden
  • Prohibited

What other similar Word Pairs like “Cant” and “Can’t” Do We Have in English?

There are many other similar word pairs like can’t and cant in English. These are words that sound the same but have different meanings and spellings. They are called homophones, which means they have the same pronunciation but different meanings, origins, or spelling.

Here are some examples of homophones

  • Aisle/Isle: An aisle is a passage between rows of seats or shelves. An isle is a small island. For example: She walked down the aisle to meet her groom. / He dreamed of living on a tropical isle.
  • Bare/Bear: Bare means naked or uncovered. Bear is an animal or a verb that means to endure or carry. For example: He had bare feet and wore no shoes. / She couldn’t bear the pain any longer.
  • Coarse/Course: Coarse means rough or crude. Course can mean a path, a direction, a part of a meal, or a subject of study. For example: He had coarse hair and a beard. / She took a course in French cuisine.
  • Dear/Deer: Dear can mean beloved, expensive, or used as a polite address. Deer is an animal with antlers. For example: You are my dear friend. / He saw a deer in the woods.
  • Eye/I: Eye is the organ of sight. I is the pronoun that refers to oneself. For example: She has blue eyes. / I like to read books.
  • Flea/Flee: A flea is a small insect that bites animals and humans. Flee means to run away from danger or trouble. For example: The dog had fleas and needed a bath. / The thief tried to flee from the police.
  • Grate/Great: Grate means to shred something into small pieces or to irritate someone. Great means large, excellent, or wonderful. For example: She grated some cheese for the pizza. / He is a great singer.
  • Hear/Here: Hear means to perceive sound with the ears. Here means in this place or at this time. For example: I can’t hear you very well. / Come here and sit with me.
  • Idle/Idol: Idle means not working or active. Idol is a person or thing that is admired or worshipped. For example: The car was left idle in the garage. / She was his idol and he wanted to meet her.
  • Know/No: Know means to have information or understanding about something. No is a word that expresses refusal, disagreement, or denial. For example: I know the answer to the question. / No, you can’t have any more candy.

These are just some of the many homophones that exist in English. There are hundreds more that you can discover and learn by reading, listening, and speaking the language. Homophones can be confusing, but they can also be fun and creative to use in poems, jokes, riddles, and puns.

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