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  1. #1
    inase's Avatar
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    I could/couldn't care less ...

    Hello,

    I wonder why the following two sentences, one in the affirmative and the other in the negative, mean the same. The speaker is not interested in where humans originated.

    1. To be frank, I could care less where our ancestors come from.
    2. To be frank, I couldn't care less where our ancestors come from.

    My guess is:

    Both are in the past subjunctive mood, referring to the speaker's present idea. Sentence 2 is stronger in meaning in a double negative construction.

    Inase

  2. #2
    inase's Avatar
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    Re: I could/couldn't care less ...

    Quote Originally Posted by RobertJ View Post
    And by the way, where is the subjunctive mood?
    The auxiliary verb "could" is in the subjunctive.

    I interpreted your explanation as follows:

    1. I don't care now and I would care much less than now.
    2. I don't care now and I wouldn't care as much as now.

    Inase
    Last edited by inase; 01-Jun-2017 at 02:05.

  3. #3
    andrewg927 is offline Senior Member
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    Re: I could/couldn't care less ...

    I could care less about the difference between the two expressions.

  4. #4
    Raymott's Avatar
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    Re: I could/couldn't care less ...

    Quote Originally Posted by andrewg927 View Post
    I could care less about the difference between the two expressions.
    For someone purportedly "Interested in Language", there seem to be a lot of things about language that you couldn't care less about.
    Last edited by Raymott; 01-Jun-2017 at 05:49. Reason: typo

  5. #5
    andrewg927 is offline Senior Member
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    Re: I could/couldn't care less ...

    I was making fun of the fact that we, Americans, use the 2 expressions interchangeably even though logic doesn't support it.

  6. #6
    GoesStation is offline Moderator
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    Re: I could/couldn't care less ...

    Although some people insist that "I could care less" means the opposite of "I couldn't care less", those Americans who use the first expression invariably mean the second: they are entirely indifferent on the subject.
    I am not a teacher.

  7. #7
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Re: I could/couldn't care less ...

    Quote Originally Posted by RobertJ View Post
    They do NOT mean the same; they are contradictory.
    Are they? The positive form, which is a recent addition, seems to be used with the same meaning, whatever the logic of the grammar.

  8. #8
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    Re: I could/couldn't care less ...

    I'll admit I use the two interchangeably.

    I rationalize it as something like "I could care less, but it would take a great deal of effort to do so and I'm not interested enough to exert the effort required to deepen my apathy. I already don't care sufficiently enough to ignore the issue."

    Or something like that.
    Wear short sleeves! Support your right to bare arms!

  9. #9
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Re: I could/couldn't care less ...

    Quote Originally Posted by RobertJ View Post
    Ignoring logic ---- the difference between the mathematical mind and the average mind. It figures. Bertrand Russell would be proud. I believe he was English.
    I see the problem, but if you heard I ain't got nobody, would you really congratulate the person on their relationship status? I get the maths, but is this really a boast rather than a lament? I hadn't heard I could care less until a few years ago, and it still sounds a bit weird to me, but I do get the intended meaning, even if I couldn't bring myself to follow suit and use it.

  10. #10
    Raymott's Avatar
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    Re: I could/couldn't care less ...

    I think there's a difference between a double negative and a single positive.
    To say that "I didn't not do it" means "I didn't do it" is hardly an argument for saying that "I did it" means "I didn't do it."

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