Saturday, January 29, 2011

Confusing words - care for, care about, take care of

Students of English can get a little confused with expressions based on the word care such as:
care for, care about and take care of.

Do these exercises / quizzes to help you sort out the differences. (If you get really stuck the answers are at the end.)

The word care can be both a verb and a noun. We'll look first of all at the verb to care. Look at these sentences and match the beginnings and endings. Click on an expression on the right and then on the appropriate box on the left.

Ex 1a - Match the beginnings and endings

1. I don't care if Ia)than I care to remember.
2. In fact he cares for her a lotb)caring for her young children.
3. He cares deeply aboutc)never see her again!
4. She doesn't care thatd)some more coffee?
5. They really care aboute)more than either of them realise.
6. I've driven this road more timesf)he's got no money. It's love that counts.
7. Would you care forg)their employees.
8. She stays at home,h)the situation of the poor.

Ex 1b - Click on the appropriate button. Which do you use when ...

1.politely offering something?
2.somebody is important to you?'s not important or worth the worry? look after somebody?
5.something is important to you? are not interested?
7.somebody is important to you romantically?

Note - Would you care for is now considered rather old-fashioned. People tend to say 'Would you like' instead.

The verb to care

Basically means to feel that somebody or something is important to you, and is worth worrying about.
  • To care about somebody - means to like or love somebody and worry about what happens to them
  • To care about something - is to think something (e.g. the environment) is very important and worth worrying about.
  • To care to do something - to make the effort to do something
It is very often used in the negative or as a question or similar construction to mean you're not interested, bothered or worried about something.
  • You're going to be late - I don't care!
  • You won't pass your exams - Who cares?
  • I won't get the job, as if I really cared anyway.
See note below - Am I bovvered?

The phrasal verb to care for

  1. means to look after somebody who is sick, very old, very young, etc.
  2. can also mean to feel romantically attracted toward somebody or love them.

"I know he cares about me, but does he care for me?"

Note - Both care about and care for somebody means to think them important and worth worrying about. Although care about can involve romantic attachment, it doesn't necessarily do so. When talking about somebody's feelings, care for, on the other hand, is used exclusively about romantic attachment.

The uncountable noun care has two main meanings:

  1. the process of caring for somebody/something and providing what they need for their health or protection
  2. attention or thought that you give to something that you are doing so that you will do it well and avoid mistakes or damage

Ex 2 - Decide which meaning, 1 or 2, care has in the following sentences.

1.Our skin care products will keep you looking young.
2.Who takes care of the children when you are at work?
3.Knowing his quick temper, she chose her words with a lot of care.
4.Great care is needed when crossing this road.
5.This is a care home for the elderly.
6.Glass - Handle with care!
7.Careful and careless
8.The patient care in this city is superb.

There is also a countable noun - care

This is rather formal and used less than the uncountable version and means - a feeling of worry or anxiety; something that causes problems or anxiety - it is more often used in the negative with such expression as:
He looked as if he didn't have a care in the world.

She was without a care in the world.

to take care - the final piece in the jigsaw

The expression take care (that) + clause, or take care to do something is linked to the second meaning of the noun - attention or with thought.
But the expression take care of is related to the first meaning of the noun, and means look after or be responsible for. In fact in British English we use look after more often than take care of, though in the US it seems to be the other way round. Interestingly the gap between the two in British English seems to be narrowing, perhaps due to the influence of Hollywood.

Ex 3a - First fill the gaps with words from the box (click on a word in the box and then click on a suitable gap to drop the word in). Then check your answers.

Ex 3b - Next, decide whether you could use look after in each sentence (maybe with a couple of changes - see below), and click on the 'Yes' or 'No' buttons, then check.

Can look after be used instead?YesNo
1.Bye! Take care !
2.Take care (that) you don't too fast!
3.Who's taking care of the while you're on holiday?
4.She takes care of her clothes.
5.Be what you feed the dog.
6.She's old now to take care of herself.
7.Care should be taken when hot coffee.
8.You should take better care of .
9.They were charged with careless .
10.David's taking care of the arrangements.
11.Emma takes care of the side of things.
12.Students take more care with their punctuation.

Using look after - possible answers: Show

Note - 'take care about'

Students sometimes confuse to care about and to take care of and come up with the hybrid expression to take care about. Such an expression does seem to exist, according to Ngram, but its usage is absolutely tiny compared to that of take care of. It also sounds very strange to native speakers. Its meaning would presumably be related to the second meaning of the noun - attention etc, and therefore could not be replaced by 'look after'. Students would be better trying to avoid this expression altogether.

Am I bovvered?

This expression, really 'Am I bothered' (some Londoners pronounce th as vv) is similar in meaning to 'Do I care?', 'What do I care?' and 'Who cares?'
It first became famous as the favourite catch phrase of Lauren, a character in the BBC comedy series 'The Catherine Tate Show'. The word 'bovvered' went on to become the 2006 'Word of the Year'. Lauren is a type of not very highly educated teenager sometimes called 'chavs' in the UK. They have a very distinctive way of talking, which includes expression such as 'innit' as a universal question tag, and 'like' meaning all sorts of things. Lauren uses 'bovvered' in various ways:
  • Am I bovvered?
  • Am I bovvered, though?
  • I ain't bovvered!
  • I ain't even bovvered, though!
  • Does my face look bovvered?
There are links to some Lauren videos below.

Answers to the exercises - click on a button and then go back to the exercise.

Entries in learners' dictionaries

Links for 'Am I bovvered?'

Assorted links

  • Ngram - look after the children or take care of the children

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