I recently invited a friend and his family over for dinner and was rather shocked when, in response to my heartfelt invitation for delicious food, the friend said “I don’t care about coming to dinner.”
If you can imagine my shock, you probably don’t need this tip. And before you recommend that I quickly run out and make some new, more polite, friends, take a breath (like I did) and think about the translation.
In Hebrew, we have the wonderful phrase לא אכפת לי   and if you have any teenagers in the house like I do, you’ll definitely be familiar with the many faceted faces and shrugs that can go along with this loaded phrase.
And, in truth, my friend’s translation wasn’t really wrong, it was just misplaced. There are many ways to let someone know you don’t care in English—many of them pretty foul. So here are the (clean) phrases that can be associated with not caring in English and the proper ways they should be used:

  • I don’t care, I couldn’t care less: This means that something is unimportant to you.
    Throwing your plastic bottles in the street is like saying I don’t care about the environment.
    Do you want pizza or pasta?
    I don’t care, either one would be fine.
    couldn’t care less who finished the wine as long as there’s another bottle.
  • I don’t care for: adding for after I don’t care changes the meaning. This means I don’t like.
    I don’t care for raw onions in my salad. I pick them out and leave them on the side of the plate.
    I’m leaving you, Martha, because I’ve realized that
    I don’t care for the perfume you wear.
  • I don’t mind: this means something does not bother you.
    I don’t mind picking little Jimmy up after kickboxing practice, you picked up last week and besides, I have nothing better to do than drive around in circles picking up the kids.
    Do you mind passing me the water? No, I don’t mind at all – here’s the water.

    Now, there is one funny use of do you mind which is using it on its own to let someone know that they are doing something really annoying, and this is a big one used by teenagers.
    When I stick my head into my daughter’s room without knocking she might whine “Mom!!! Do you mind??!!”
    If someone you don’t know seems to be eavesdropping on your conversation at a restaurant, you can give them THE look and say “
    Do you mind??!!”
    It’s sort of an expression and sort of a question and it’s full of attitude so you might want to be careful who you say it to.

So I imagine my friend meant to say that he wouldn’t mind coming for dinner. Which may not be enthusiastic enough for me to ever invite him again, but it isn’t as bad as saying I don’t care.
My advice to you is that in English, unless you really feel strongly about something it’s always better not to let people know when you “couldn’t give a shit.”


About rachel karlin
I can't claim to be an English language expert, but making a lot of mistakes in Hebrew and hearing a lot of mistakes in English gets me thinking. And thinking in my world translates into writing, which in this case means sharing some of my ideas.

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