“I could care less” or “I couldn’t care less”? You may hear both in spoken English, meaning “I don’t care about it at all.” But which one is grammatically correct? For a simple guide to these expressions, read on.
I Couldn’t Care Less
“I couldn’t care less” is an example of a form of verbal irony known as litotes, in which negative wording is used to express a positive statement. For example, if you say, “I won’t be sorry,” you really mean that you will be glad. Similarly, when you use litotes to say, “I couldn’t care less” about something, you mean that you really don’t care about it at all or that it is impossible to care less than you already do. Have a look at these examples:
Peter couldn’t care less about English grammar; he just wants to make himself understood.
(Meaning: Peter is uninterested in English grammar.)
I couldn’t care less whom we invite for Thanksgiving.
(Meaning: I don’t care at all whom we invite for Thanksgiving.)
I Could Care Less
You may also hear “I could care less” used in the same way as “I couldn’t care less” in spoken or informal English:
They could care less if the weather’s sunny or not.
I could care less about domestic taxation.
In these two sentences, “I could care less” means that I do not care at all about the issue.
So why do we have two seemingly opposite expressions that mean the same thing?
The answer comes from spoken English. If you use a voice dripping with sarcasm, the sarcasm can take the place of the litotes; in other words, “I could care less” said sarcastically can mean the same as “I couldn’t care less.” Obviously, tone of voice is only available in speech, while in writing, we must rely on grammatical correctness. Therefore, we should use “I couldn’t care less.”
“I couldn’t care less” and “I could care less” are used interchangeably in spoken English to mean “I do not care at all.” The grammatically correct expression is “I couldn’t care less,” while “I could care less” generally only has the same meaning when used with a sarcastic tone. So, it’s best to stick to “I couldn’t care less” in written or formal English.
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