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    #1

    "I could care less" or "I couldn't care less"?

    Dear teachers,

    Would you be kind enough to explain to me the existence of the following astonishing paradox?
    care less

    phrasal not to care used positively and negatively with the same meaning

    I could care less what happens
    > <
    I couldn't care less what happens

    Thank you for your efforts.

    Regards,

    V.

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    #2

    Exclamation Re: "I could care less" or "I couldn't care less"?

    Quote Originally Posted by vil View Post
    Dear teachers,

    Would you be kind enough to explain to me the existence of the following astonishing paradox?
    care less

    phrasal not to care used positively and negatively with the same meaning

    I could care less what happens
    > <
    I couldn't care less what happens

    Thank you for your efforts.

    Regards,

    V.
    The paradox exists because of the modal verb expressing a possibility. It is explained how:

    I could care means there is a possibility of caring and the possibility may vary in degree from a degree zero to infinitive. If one cares to any degree at all, it is possible to care a lot or you could care less which may even amount to zero degree. In other words: You could not care less because it is impossible to care less than that amount(zero degree).

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    #3

    Re: "I could care less" or "I couldn't care less"?

    Quote Originally Posted by vil View Post
    Dear teachers,

    Would you be kind enough to explain to me the existence of the following astonishing paradox?
    care less

    phrasal not to care — used positively and negatively with the same meaning

    I could care less what happens
    > <
    I couldn't care less what happens
    Hi

    In my experience, "I could care less" is typically used in North America, and "I couldn't care less" is typically used elsewhere.

    I grew up in the UK (and said "couldn't care less") but have lived in North America for over seven years. I still say "couldn't care less" personally, but almost never hear it from my North American friends.

    I hope this helps.

    An interesting question that appears somewhat similar is the difference (if any) between "it couldn't have been worse" and "it could have been worse". I'll leave that for you as a challenge!
    Last edited by crclee; 03-Dec-2009 at 16:48.

  2. BobK's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: "I could care less" or "I couldn't care less"?

    Quote Originally Posted by crclee View Post
    Hi

    In my experience, "I could care less" is typically used in North America, and "I couldn't care less" is typically used elsewhere.

    I grew up in the UK (and said "couldn't care less") but have lived in North America for over seven years. I still say "couldn't care less" personally, but almost never it from my North American friends.

    ... I'm with Steven Pinker on this one. Haven't some Britons heard of irony?

    An interesting question that appears somewhat similar is the difference (if any) between "it couldn't have been worse" and "it could have been worse". I'll leave that for you as a challenge!
    I really don't see the challenge. The first means 'it was as bad as it could possibly be', the second - unsurprisingly - means ''it was not as bad as it could possibly be [although it was bad, one could imagine the situation being worse]'... Where's the similarity?

    b

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    #5

    Re: "I could care less" or "I couldn't care less"?

    Quote Originally Posted by BobK View Post
    I really don't see the challenge. The first means 'it was as bad as it could possibly be', the second - unsurprisingly - means ''it was not as bad as it could possibly be [although it was bad, one could imagine the situation being worse]'... Where's the similarity?
    b
    Hi

    The challenge was, not surprisingly, intended for the original poster... Did I inadvertently make it seem as if it were intended for someone else? In any case, thanks for taking it up!

    And the similarity was also to the original post: two expressions, one positive, one negative. In that case the meaning was the same; in the case of my challenge, the meaning was different. However, in my experience many learners find the two expressions confusingly similar... I thought it might help / be of interest to the original poster.

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    #6

    Re: "I could care less" or "I couldn't care less"?



    b

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    #7

    Re: "I could care less" or "I couldn't care less"?

    could care less


    In the link,it is suggested that "I could care less what happens" and "I couldn't care less what happens" are not interchangeable.

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    #8

    Re: "I could care less" or "I couldn't care less"?

    Quote Originally Posted by euncu View Post
    could care less

    In the link,it is suggested that "I could care less what happens" and "I couldn't care less what happens" are not interchangeable.
    Hi

    Interesting link. Thank you for sharing.

    There's always a challenge when explaining language as to whether to be descriptive (i.e., describing how language is actually used by (native) speakers) or prescriptive (i.e., describing how language shouldbe used by speakers).

    From a descriptivist point of view, I would argue that there is no difference between "I could care less" and "I couldn't care less" because, as the article makes clear, people are trying to express the same point; namely, that they don't care at all.

    Personally, I agree with the article: to me the phrase "I could care less" has never made any sense (and has never struck me as ironic). However, when I hear people use "I could care less" I understand what they are trying to say and I don't care to annoy them by pointing out their "mistake". (I would never teach it to my students, though.)

    So, in terms of logic and common sense, "I could care less" meaning "I could not care less" does not make any sense... but when has language ever been logical or common-sensical? (Shh! Nobody mention Esperanto.)

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