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"Could care less" or "Couldn't care less"?


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It seems obvious that "couldn't care less" should be the correct usage, implying that you care so little about something that it isn't possible for you care any less i.e. you don't care at all. But the statement "could care less" with a sarcastic tone is also very common. I have seen both being used with equal frequency. The general excuse for the second statement is that it suggests sarcasm when used while the first one is quite point blank and serious.

So, is the practical usage of "I could care less" acceptable?

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It seems obvious that "couldn't care less" should be the correct usage, implying that you care so little about something that it isn't possible for you care any less i.e. you don't care at all. But the statement "could care less" with a sarcastic tone is also very common. I have seen both being used with equal frequency. The general excuse for the second statement is that it suggests sarcasm when used while the first one is quite point blank and serious.

So, is the practical usage of "I could care less" acceptable?

I would stick with "I couldn't care less" as it is grammatically correct.  It's true, as you say, that "I could care less" is used as sarcasm or irony.  But in my opinion, it's a lame excuse for poor grammar.  If one wants to be sarcastic, the tone of voice is enough to do it. 

There are unfortunately too many instances in which poor grammar becomes acceptable over time.  But I think it never hurts to be grammatically correct!

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I'd say "I couldn't care less" already has some sarcasm in it.

According to Wikipedia (and apparently the Oxford English Dictionary), sarcasm is "a sharp, bitter, or cutting expression or remark; a bitter gibe or taunt." Saying "I car so little about it, I couldn't care less" can be quite bitter. Why not just say "I don't care at all"?

So saying that "I could care less" is sarcastic is not just a lame excuse for poor grammar, it's a complete misunderstanding of the phrase, imo.

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Well it seems like our society has accepted the mistake, haven't they?  Just add it to the list of commonly accepted grammar mistakes.  When I was younger I was guilty of making the "could care less" mistake myself but I've changed my ways.

Indeed! It seems like every day grammar gets worse and worse, and yet more acceptable. The common argument is that "you know what I mean", but that's a pretty lame excuse. Somewhat of a related subject is that spelling has gone down the hole too. When I went to school, spelling always mattered. Nowadays they don't force it as much. They are much more focused on the content, and although I can't argue with wanting good content but the spelling is equally important. You come off looking foolish when you can't spell properly. I know spell check catches a lot, but it doesn't catch everything.

I will admit that I have at times in my life used "could care less" but as you said, I have changed my ways.

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Well it seems like our society has accepted the mistake, haven't they?  Just add it to the list of commonly accepted grammar mistakes.  When I was younger I was guilty of making the "could care less" mistake myself but I've changed my ways.

Agreed. You took the words right out of my mouth. I don't think anyone means to say, "I could care less" nobody's that sarcastic. The phrase "I couldn't care less" is already obnoxious enough haha.

There are so many others but I can't think of any. I think using the word "irregardless" is one but that's a whole other problem...

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I'd say "I couldn't care less" already has some sarcasm in it.

According to Wikipedia (and apparently the Oxford English Dictionary), sarcasm is "a sharp, bitter, or cutting expression or remark; a bitter gibe or taunt." Saying "I car so little about it, I couldn't care less" can be quite bitter. Why not just say "I don't care at all"?

So saying that "I could care less" is sarcastic is not just a lame excuse for poor grammar, it's a complete misunderstanding of the phrase, imo.

True. Always thought the argument for using "could care less" was just a flimsy excuse considering that the grammatically correct statement already conveyed sarcasm well. But the use is unfortunately so common that it is easy for a non-native speaker to actually question if the correct usage is actually valid!

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  • 1 month later...

Saying that you could care less is saying that you are not at the minimum level of wring, which is the point that this saying is trying to get across. When you say you could not care less, this is implying that you are at the bare minimum level of caring, therefor you do not care at all.

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I believe that "couldn't care less" would be the grammatically correct statement. I also agree that both statements are sarcastic, and is not used in situations where you are attempting to be polite. I have heard persons say "could care less" but obviously that's incorrect. I believe I said that a few times, and later on realized my mistake, and I'm no longer saying that.

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  • 2 months later...

Most people say I could care less.

When you're saying I could care less, you're saying that you could care less than you already do, meaning that you give no care in the world.

When you're saying I couldn't care less, that means that you can't care any less than you do, which in turn means that you do, in fact, could be caring a little bit.

So it really just depends on what you want to say.

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I agree that "couldn't" care less is gramatically correct and makes more sense.  I do, now that you mention it, think many people do use "could care less" rather frequently.  Thanks for pointing this out since I think phrases like this are easy to get "immune" to in an incorrect form, just to the frequency we hear them and the fact it sort of is a response we tend to expect in certain circumstances.  For example, if you tell someone "I hate to tell you but I saw Bob is dating again..." you can almost expect some form of this phrase.

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I agree completely that grammar and spelling have gone downhill and it drives me absolutely crazy! But - to play devil's advocate - language does evolve over time. Do you think some of the mistakes that are becoming more common - the example given here or the misuse of their/they're/there - will become acceptable, not only in informal speaking/writing, but also in more formal settings? I hope not, just giving another perspective on it to hopefully get people thinking:)

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I consider "could care less" to be poor grammar :sad:. I've never used it or even heard it been used but if society does accept it then I don't think it will go beyond informal.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I think this is just one of those things that we've gotten lazier while saying, therefore mumbling some of the words, and it has transformed so that wouldn't has become would, and people now repeat that without thinking about the actual logic of the statement. Perhaps if we all start saying it correctly we can change it back!

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"Could care less" just sounds so wrong. The saying is that you couldn't care less. You do not care at all. Cares are at zero.

I cringe when I hear "could care less" and if people do it intentionally, why? What's the point? If you care a bit, it's obvious you could care less! It just seems redundant, sorry.

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Oh, my gosh, this. I am always extremely bothered by this! I constantly hear people saying "I could care less" and I always think "So you do care!". A couple of times, I actually said that, and they got mad at me and corrected me. However, I've always thought it should be "I couldn't care less". It just makes sense, as in you care so little about it that it is just physically impossible for you to care any less.

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I never heard I could careless.. Don't know if it is grammatically correct but doesn't sound right to me because I never heard it yet. I heard couldn't care less many times but not the other one. It might be correct grammatically but no one uses it for reasons?

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Oh, this is a pet peeve of mine! I hate it when people say "I could care less" and it's spreading rapidly now! It started off as an Americanism - and, yes, it's supposed to be sarcastic (but then "I couldn't care less" sounds perfectly sarcastic to me) - but it has seeped in to British usage now, and is being adopted by English speakers all over the world, it seems. Languages do mutate over time - and I'm sure that process is being accelerated by the internet now - but this is one phrase that makes no sense at all to me!  :doubtful:

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