Misused Idioms: Could or Couldn’t Care Less?
  • 2-minute read
  • 3rd April 2020

Misused Idioms: Could or Couldn’t Care Less?

It’s time to look at a commonly misused figure of speech. In particular, we’re going to look at the phrase “couldn’t care less,” which is often wrongly written as “could care less.” Check out our guide below if you want to avoid errors!

The Phrase: Couldn’t Care Less

You can use the phrase “couldn’t care less” to express disdain for or a lack of interest in something. For instance, we could say:

I couldn’t care less about the weather.

This implies the speaker has no interest in the weather.

“Couldn’t care less” should be easy to remember because it makes sense on a literal level: if you have no interest in something, you cannot care less about it! However, many people use “could care less” instead, which can be confusing.

The Error: Could Care Less

People often say they “could care less” to express disdain or a lack of interest. For example, you might hear someone say:

I could care less about grammar, so don’t bother correcting me.

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Taken literally, though, “could care less” implies that you care about something. After all, you must care at least a little bit if you could care about it less. And as such, this is the exact opposite of the correct phrase.

The confusion probably arises from hearing the phrase spoken, since it is easy to mistake “couldn’t” for “could” if someone is speaking quickly. But it is an error all the same, so try to avoid this version of the saying!

Summary: Couldn’t Care Less or Could Care Less?

Both of these phrases are used to express the same thing: disdain or a lack of interest in something. And the phrase “could care less” is quite common now, so most people will understand what you mean if you write this.

However, “could care less” is technically an error, and on a literal level implies the opposite of disdain. As such, using “could care less” in your writing could look bad or confuse your reader. So, if you don’t care about something even slightly, remember that you couldn’t care less about it.

And if you need any more help ensuring your writing is clear, why not submit a document for proofreading today?

Comments (5)
Troy S.
4th April 2020 at 00:48
"Taken literally, though, “could care less” implies that you care about something. ... However, “could care less” is technically an error..." It is not an error if you use the term correctly. And since words do indeed have meaning... For example, I like broccoli. Not a lot. It is just ok. Indeed, I could be less of a fan of broccoli. I could care less about it. So, if you could care less about something, do not be afraid to say so.
    Proofed
    6th April 2020 at 10:21
    That is true, Troy, so thank you for the clarification. It would be unusual to announce something like that in most circumstances, though, whereas people often say "could care less" when they mean "couldn't care less," and we were focusing on the common error here.
Jonathan
3rd May 2022 at 16:55
Yay! I wish that more people would educate and correct on this error. I couldn’t care less about their feelings, when it comes to bad grammar they must be corrected! Ha ha. I see this error so frequently now and it’s baffling because unlike most grammatical mistakes, this one is obvious and easy to figure out. As described in the article, if you don’t care at all about something, you couldn’t care less. If someone says they could care less, my first instinct is to ask, oh? What would make you care less then you do? They’re confused like, “Huh?” You said you COULD care less, so I was just curious what would make that situation happen where you cared less about said thing.
Paul Gorman
20th November 2022 at 22:53
Couldn’t, is short for could not. It becomes more apparent that it is the correct term when hearing “not” which means no. Where as “could” means that it is possible. So, to say “could care less” means that it is is possible to care less, where as “couldn’t care less” means that it is not possible to care less.
    Proofed
    25th November 2022 at 18:22
    Hi, Paul. Thanks for this! Yes, exactly – “could care less” implies you care a little, whereas the idiom is used to mean that you don’t care at all.

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