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  1. inase's Avatar
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    #1

    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. inase's Avatar
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    #2

    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. Senior Member
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    #3

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

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

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    #4

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

    Logical or not, some speakers of AmE do use 'I could care less' with the same meaning as 'I couldn't care less'. You might be interested in this: https://www.merriam-webster.com/vide...ldnt-care-less and this: http://blog.dictionary.com/could-care-less/

    There is little point in considering whether any past-tense verb (except BE) is subjunctive or not, as subjunctive and indicative forms are identical.
    Last edited by Piscean; 01-Jun-2017 at 02:13.

  5. Raymott's Avatar
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    #5

    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

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    #6

    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.

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    #7

    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.

  8. Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    #8

    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.

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    #9

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

    My logical mind cannot help but be appalled by I could care less meaning I don't care at all.

    My descriptive linguistic mind accepts that it does mean that for many speakers of AmE.

    My TEFL mind is delighted that, during the sixty or so years I have been studying English, most lexicographers and grammarians and some writers of style guides have rejected the artificial prescriptive 'rules' of earlier writers.
    Last edited by Rover_KE; 01-Jun-2017 at 18:21.

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    #10

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

    Possibly slightly off topic

    I am reminded of those who claim that an utterance such as I didn't not do it (meaning I didn't do it) is incorrect because that utterance means I did it/I did do it.

    It doesn't. To those who utter such words, and to those who hear them, the meaning is clear - the speaker is denying that they did something. Logicians might get upset, and teachers of English can justifiably state that such utterances are not accepted as standard English. However, the meaning is not that the speaker is admitting that they did something.

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