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 (kăn′ŏt, kə-nŏt′, kă-)
The negative form of can1.
Usage Note: The idiomatic phrase cannot but has sometimes been criticized as a double negative, perhaps because it has been confused with can but. The but of cannot but, however, means "except," as it does in phrases such as no one but, while the but of can but has the sense only, as it does in the sentence We had but a single bullet left. Both cannot but and can but are established as standard expressions. · The construction cannot help is used with a present participle to roughly the same effect as a verb form ending in -ing in a sentence such as We cannot help admiring his courage. This construction usually implies that a person is unable to affect an outcome normally under his or her control. Thus, saying We could not help laughing at such a remark would imply that one could not suppress one's laughter. · The construction cannot help but probably arose as a blend of cannot help and cannot but; it has the meaning of the first and the syntax of the second: We cannot help but admire his courage. The construction has sometimes been criticized as a redundancy, but it has been around for more than a century and appears in the writing of many distinguished authors. · The expression cannot (or can't) seem to has occasionally been criticized as illogical, and so it is. Brian can't seem to get angry does not mean "Brian is incapable of appearing to get angry," as its syntax would seem to dictate; rather, it means "Brian appears to be unable to get angry." But the idiom serves a useful purpose, since the syntax of English does not allow a logical equivalent like Brian seems to cannot get angry; and the cannot seem to construction is so widely used that it would be pedantic to object to it. See Usage Notes at but, help.


(ˈkænɒt; kæˈnɒt)
an auxiliary verb expressing incapacity, inability, withholding permission, etc; can not


(ˈkæn ɒt, kæˈnɒt, kə-)

a form of can not.
cannot but, to have no alternative but to; cannot help but: We cannot but choose otherwise.
usage: cannot is sometimes spelled can not. The one-word spelling is more common by far. Its contraction, can't, is found chiefly in speech and informal writing. See also can1, help.
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References in classic literature ?
They shout and gesticulate tremendously but cannot agree, and Rodrigo is about to bear away the exhausted Zara, when the timid servant enters with a letter and a bag from Hagar, who has mysteriously disappeared.
If my nature is such that I cannot resist sin, I shall give myself over to sin.
Will they be much disappointed because we cannot get a priest?
I cannot judge of that myself, but I feel that I have gained in ease and confidence.
Those persons," he said, "who cannot respect the dignity of this court will leave it.
Whether this answer affected their courage, or not, I cannot tell; but, contrary to our expectations, they formed a scheme to deceive us, declaring it was their orders, from Governor Hamilton, to take us captives, and not to destroy us; but if nine of us would come out, and treat with them, they would immediatly withdraw their forces from our walls, and return home peaceably.
And yet I CANNOT be with him, it makes me so nervous.
Dear cousin, I cannot tell how it will be," said she.
Weston, "ever since September: every letter has been full of it; but he cannot command his own time.
The smallness of the house," said she, "I cannot imagine any inconvenience to them, for it will be in proportion to their family and income.
I cannot attribute this new overthrow of my hopes to any want of perseverance or penetration in making the necessary inquiries.
No doubt you will reply that there can be no comparison, that the dead cannot be numbered, while the living who have been rewarded may be summed up with three figures.