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“I Couldn’t Care Less” vs. “I Could Care Less”: Learn the Difference

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Is it “I could care less” or “I couldn’t care less”? When making a point with this phrase, the last thing you want to do is misuse it. Doing so can convey the opposite sentiment you’re trying to express, which can be embarrassing and counterproductive! We’ll clarify which is correct.

White text over green background reads "I Couldn't Care Less vs I Could Care Less"
One of these phrases means you care, and the other means you don’t.
Quick Summary

Although I could care less is included in some dictionaries as a variant, the correct phrase is I couldn’t care less. Semantically, I couldn’t care less means I don’t care, whereas I could care less means I do care.

Do you ever come across the phrase I could care less? Or maybe you’ve even used this expression yourself. While undeniably common, is it correct?

If you want to express indifference about something while being as grammatically accurate as possible, you should know that I could care less is highly debated despite its popularity.

Below, we’ll cover the difference between I could care less and I couldn’t care less, so you can understand why one is favored over the other.

“I Couldn’t Care Less” Meaning

I couldn’t care less is equivalent to saying I don’t care. It’s a phrase that succinctly expresses that you are not concerned about something. Bear in mind that it can be considered rude and snarky.

I couldn’t care less about the game score because I just want to go home.


I don’t care about the game score because I just want to go home.

You can remember that these two phrases are synonymous because both couldn’t and don’t end with “n’t.” Remember, couldn’t means could not, and don’t means do not.

When someone says I couldn’t care less, that means they care so little about something that it would be impossible for them to care any less.

My cousin boasted about her new purse, but I couldn’t care less about designer brands. 
They often discuss the Kardashians, but I couldn’t care less about celebrities because I have enough to worry about in my life.
I couldn’t care less if it rains; I love beach days either way!
Text reads "I couldn't care less = I don't care."
Keep this visual in mind to help you remember what “I couldn’t care less” means.

“I Could Care Less” Meaning

If someone says I could care less, it means that they do care, and it’s possible for them to care less than they currently do. If you break down the semantics of the phrase, I could care less is the same as saying I care.

I could care less = I care

However, using the phrase I could care less to mean I don’t care is so common that Merriam-Webster has added it as a variant of I couldn’t care less.

According to Merriam-Webster, I couldn’t care less is undoubtedly the original phrase, gaining popularity during the 1940s. I could care less did not become a variant until sometime after.

Google Ngram shows the difference in usage between "I could not care less" and "I could care less."
“I could care less” started gaining prevalence during the 1960s.

So, Which Phrase Should You Use?

Our advice to you is to stick with the original (and correct) phrase: I couldn’t care less.

Sure, I could care less is technically a variant, but it can be considered as discreditable as using literally to mean figuratively.

I couldn’t care less about the trophy; I just wanted bragging rights.

I could care less about the trophy; I just wanted bragging rights.

Both phrases sound similar, so we don’t blame you if you have a hard time remembering which is correct. Just keep in mind that I couldn’t care less means I don’t care (and both contain “n’t”) 

I couldn’t care less and I could care less are hardly the only phrases native speakers and language learners struggle with. How can you be sure to avoid other embarrassing slip-ups?

By using LanguageTool! This advanced, AI-driven writing assistant can ensure your work is error-free to help you avoid awkward and uncomfortable miscommunications. Plus, it’s multilingual, meaning you can write confidently in over thirty languages and dialects!

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Meme from Austin Powers shows Dr. Evil and his entourage laughing maniacally, with text that reads "How it feels when someone says I could care less during an argument."
Don’t make this mistake; remember that the grammatically correct phrase is “I couldn’t care less.”

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