I don’t care and I don’t mind: An American and British difference

The phrases I don’t care and I don’t mind are very common and useful, but they can cause offence and/or confusion when Americans and Brits use them together. In the USA they mean one thing and in the UK they mean another.

When an American says I don’t care to a Brit, they can sound negative and apathetic. And when a Brit says I don’t mind to an American, they can appear to avoid the question, and answer another different question – which makes no sense. Learn how we use these phrases differently on both sides of the pond in this video.

To see more of our videos on American and British differences, click here.
To see more videos about what’s polite in everyday English conversation, click here.

Don’t care – Don’t mind Video Transcript

Would you like tea, or coffee?
I don’t mind. I don’t care.

This video’s about a curious difference between American and British English.
I’m American.
Yes, Jay’s American and I’m British.
And this video’s about a family argument.
Yes. It’s about how Jay uses the phrase ‘I don’t care’.
No, it’s about how you use the phrase ‘I don’t mind’.
Do you want to tell them or shall I?
I don’t care.
Then let me begin.

When you offer us two alternatives, two possibilities, British and American people respond in different ways.

Would you like tea, or coffee?
I don’t mind.
I don’t care.

We both mean we’re happy with either alternative, but our responses are different. So same intentions but different responses – that can lead to misunderstandings.

Let’s go to the cinema tonight.
You mean the movies.
There’s that comedy with Sandra Bullock, and that one with Robert De Niro.
Which do you fancy. I don’t care.
You don’t want to go then?
No, I don’t care.
All right then. We won’t go.
What did I do?

In American ‘I don’t care’ means I’m happy with either possibility. You can decide because I like both alternatives.
If we say ‘I don’t care’ in British English, it means we’re apathetic – we’re not interested. ‘I don’t care’ sounds negative.

So what would you like for dinner? Spaghetti or an omelette?
Oh I don’t care.

I don’t care is often rude in British English. We’d say ‘I don’t mind’.

So what do you want for dinner?
Spaghetti or an omelette?
I don’t mind.
What?

‘I don’t mind’ makes no sense in American English. It’s the answer to the question ‘Do you mind…?’ like ‘Do you mind if I have the last cookie?’ You can answer ‘No, I don’t mind’, or ‘Actually, I want it’. But if I ask ‘Do you want this or that?’ and you answer ‘I don’t mind’ you’re answering a question I didn’t ask, and it drives me crazy.

Would you like red wine or white wine?
I don’t mind.
But which do you want?

OK everyone, we’re finished. Let’s go and see that movie.
You want to see it?
Yeah.
Great!
Do you want to walk or take a bus?
I don’t mind.
Well make up your mind!
Why? You can choose.

Click here to watch this video with a clickable transcript.
To see more of our videos on American and British differences, click here.
To see more videos about what’s polite in everyday English conversation, click here.

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