What is the Difference Between “I Don’t Mind” and “I Don’t Care” in English Conversation?

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“I don’t mind” and “I don’t care” are two English expressions that are very similar. But it’s important to understand the difference, because you could easily offend your listener!

Here’s a simple conversation you might have with your friend on a Saturday night.

Friend: Do you want to go out?
You: I don’t mind.

Your friend is offering you a choice. You can say yes or no. When you are offered a choice, “I don’t mind” is a polite way to say that you would be happy with either choice.

Now let’s try the same conversation with a different answer:

Friend: Do you want to go out?
You: I don’t care.

When you say, “I don’t care,” you are telling your friend that what is important to him isn’t important to you. You are not interested in what he wants to do. Usually, “I don’t care” can be a little bit offensive.

“I Don’t Mind” and “I Don’t Care” Are Not the Same

So we see that “I don’t mind” and “I don’t care” are not the same, but they can be used in the same situation. Let’s look at another example.

Friend: Do you want to paint the wall blue or brown?
You: I don’t mind.

Your friend wants your opinion about the color of the wall, and it is important to him. When you tell him “I don’t mind,” you are telling him that you would be happy with either color, and that he should choose the color he likes best.

With this answer, you are expressing an interest in what he is doing. You are trusting him that he will choose a good color and you will be happy with whatever he chooses.

“I Don’t Care” Can Be Offensive

Now let’s talk about the same conversation with “I don’t care.”

Friend: Do you want to paint the wall blue or brown?
You: I don’t care.

Your friend wants your opinion about the color of the wall, because it is important to him. When you tell him “I don’t care,” you are saying that his concern for your opinion is not important and that you are not interested. You won’t even notice what color the wall is when he is finished.

Your friend is asking for your opinion because he wants to include you, and you are telling him that his concern for you is unimportant and you are not interested. This is why it might be a little offensive to say “I don’t care.”

Sometimes You Can Say “I Don’t Care”

Sometimes it’s okay to say “I don’t care.” It depends a lot on who you are saying it to and your tone of voice. You might also shrug your shoulders, emphasizing that it is not important to you. If your friend doesn’t have an opinion about the question, you can say “I don’t care.”

Friend: Should we go out tonight or stay home?
You: I don’t care, you decide.

In this situation, you understand that your friend really doesn’t care either. In this case, “I don’t care” and “I don’t mind” mean the same thing. You won’t be offending your friend by saying “I don’t care,” because he doesn’t care, either. And if neither one of you wants to go out, you should probably stay home!

Some People Say “I Don’t Care” When They Really Care a Lot

Sometimes people say “I don’t care” when they actually care a lot. They are being sarcastic, saying the opposite of what they really mean, perhaps with a little anger. This can be difficult to identify, but it usually happens when people are talking about relationships with other people. In this example, you and Mary used to date each other.

Friend: I heard that Mary is dating Steve now.
You: I don’t care, I hope they are happy.

It’s possible that you really don’t care and that it is not important to you because you didn’t like Mary anyway. It’s also possible that you care a lot, and you are trying to minimize the sadness you feel because Mary doesn’t want to date you anymore. In this situation, it is important to be clear about what you mean.

The Most Important Tip

So “I don’t mind” specifically means, “I would be happy with either choice, so you decide.” If you want to be safe, it’s better to say “I don’t mind.”

“I don’t care” specifically means, “Whatever you want is okay, it’s not important to me.” The tone of your voice and your facial expression when you say “I don’t care” is the most important tip.

One suggestion is to have more practice speaking with an English native speaker so that it would be easier for you to understand the difference.




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Photo Credit: Shawn Hoke


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