English Lesson: “I don’t mind” vs “I don’t care”

One of the worst conversation scripts I hear all the time is “I don’t know. What do you want to do?”

A: It’s about time for dinner. Where do you want to eat?
B: I don’t know. What do you want to do?

A: Do you want to go to the mall or watch a movie?
B: I don’t know. What do you want to do?

A: Should I stick with my diet or eat that new naked chalupa thing?
B: I don’t know. What do you want to do?

I hate it.

It’s indecision and passivity at its worst. At its “best”, it’s a terrible form of politeness. The intention being, “Oh, I’ll just go with the flow. I’m okay with whatever.”

That’s just lazy. Suggest something. Otherwise, Person A has to do more work to think for two people. If you notice Person A getting irritated, this isn’t an English problem– it’s a communication issue!

How to use “I don’t mind.”

Another variation in the same kind of conversation might be:

A: (Do) you feel like Taco Bell?
B: (Sure/yeah) I don’t mind.

The phrase “I don’t mind” is in line with “I’m okay with whatever”. For whatever reason this phrase made its way to Japan. They shorten it to “don mai” (ドンマイ), but they also use it to express it in a way to mean “don’t worry” or “relax”.

In English it doesn’t work that way. You have to use it as:

  • a response – “I don’t mind”
  • a question – “Do you mind if ~ ?”
  • an assurance – “Don’t mind me.”

If you just say “don’t mind”, that’s broken English.

How to use “I don’t care.”

Can you use “I don’t care” instead of “I don’t mind”? Let’s try replacing our earlier examples.

A: Where do you want to eat?
B: I don’t care.

A: Do you want to watch a movie?
B: I don’t care.

Now it sounds like you’re a bratty teenager arguing with your mom. In other words “I don’t care” sounds dismissive and cold.

Of course, there is a way to make it work as long as you channel the right kind of intonation.

However, it’s probably better to stay away from this phrase unless you’re trying to give someone the cold shoulder.

Adding Curses

Just to recap, I don’t recommend non-native English speakers to curse.  Cuss words don’t make you sound smart.

If we add cursing to “I don’t care”, we get:

  • I don’t fucking care.
  • I don’t give a shit.

Does that make you sound more fluent? Maybe. But remember, it doesn’t make you sound any friendlier. If “I don’t care” already sounds dismissive, now you really sound rude and dismissive.

It’s best to save these phrases for arguing.

If you need help telling someone “I don’t give a shit” or want to learn other cool ways to improve your conversation skills, sign up for speech coaching!

Published by Jon Dao

Formerly, the Conversation Coach

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