1. No one cares about what you look like.
    2. No one cares what you look like.
    1. I don't care about what they say.
    2. I don't care what they say.

Is "about" optional, necessary or wrong?

  • 1
    "I don't care about your looks" or "I don't care what you look like". – The Photon Nov 13 '16 at 3:00
  • 1
    "About" is optional in these usages. – P. E. Dant Reinstate Monica Nov 13 '16 at 6:07

Many English verb-preposition compounds like "to care about" have specific meanings that change when you change the preposition. For example, "to care for" is different from "to care to" and both are different from "to care about".

So you can almost treat "to care about" as its own verb, separate from "to care" (although with a very similar definition). As long as it fits in the meaning of the sentence, either one is grammatically correct.

I don't care (about) whether you use one phrase or the other.

I very much care (about) what happens to this country.

Two things to keep in mind:

  1. I've seen some definitions for "care about" that are different from plain "care", and imply a deeper feeling for a person or situation. In my experience, however, people seem to freely use one or the other, so this may be related to dialect.

  2. Some English style guides suggest you should not use more words in a sentence than necessary. In cases were you can use either, you should keep it simple and just say care. This is a recommendation, though, and not a rule.

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