Which is it, I COULDN’T care less or I COULD care less?

What does “I couldn’t care less” mean, and which is correct, couldn’t or could

If you’ve said that you couldn’t care less about something, it means that you are not concerned about it at all; it does not matter to you. 

Graphic of a confused figurine with the words "Couldn't Care Less? Could Care Less?"

Example

  • James says he couldn’t care less if he gets fired. James is saying he doesn’t care if he gets fired; it simply won’t matter to him.

But you’ll also hear people use this idiom with could instead of couldn’t, like this:

  • I could care less what happens. 

Is this way correct, and what does it mean?

The answer to this inquiry depends on who you ask. According to most grammarians, this expression is only logical and correct with couldn’t. If someone says, “I couldn’t care less” about (blank), it means that the amount of care and concern they have about whatever that something is could not be any less or any lower. It makes sense. Thus when someone says I could care less, it should mean the opposite and should mean that they are concerned.

However, if you listen to native speakers, you’ll hear some people saying, “I could care less,” and you will know from the context and tone of voice that what they mean is that they are not at all interested or concerned. So while the expression with could might not be as logical, it is still used. And if you’re interested in understanding real usage, like many grammarians and scholars, you should definitely be familiar with both formats.

Video Explanation

For a deeper dive, here is a video explanation from EspressoEnglish of the phrase I Couldn’t Care Less

Related: Is it Bear With Me or Bare With Me?

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