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I would like to learn what the difference between words 'Watch' and 'Mind' in meaning of 'be careful of' is. Imagine that you want to warn a person that the ceiling is low:

  • Watch your head!
  • Mind your head!

What is more preferable and why? Are there any geographical prefernces? Can both of the verbs take the same subjects?

Thank you in advance

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Watch your head! American English

Mind your head! British English

  • Pretty much. We do say "mind your head" in AmE, but it sounds British-y to me. – Andrew Feb 20 '17 at 17:21
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    It's true that for the specific injunction regarding your head AmE favours watch over mind. But for your manners, both AmE and BrE still massively favour mind. I doubt that's significantly affected by the alliteration. – FumbleFingers Feb 20 '17 at 18:41
  • In AmE we can "mind" or "watch" our Ps and Qs. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Feb 20 '17 at 19:46
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First off, they are idiomatic. Their meaning is associated with the whole phrase rather than with the individual words which are not to be taken literally. “Watch your head.” literally means “Keep looking at your head.” which is not physically possible. “Mind your head.” is related to “Keep your head in mind.” and literally means “Be aware of your head.”

I hear both versions in American English. They really mean the same thing, but “Watch your head.” is more likely to be used by males and “Mind your head” is a softer version more likely to be used by females. I would say it is because “Watch” is more of a direct command to action, whereas “Mind” is a suggestion that your attention is needed for something and lets you decide the rest on your own.

  • It's not necessarily a rigorous analysis, but comparing hits in Google Books for Watch/Mind your manners he/she [said], I find no real evidence to support your gender-based distinction. Quite the opposite, really - the two genders (which I'm sure will normally represent the speaker, in such contexts) are about equal with Mind your manners [he/she] said, but it seems that Watch your manners is used by males about twice as often as females. Perhaps American men are just more likely than American women to upbraid children in this way. – FumbleFingers Feb 20 '17 at 19:40
  • I had to laugh when I read your first paragraph. Actually, you are right. :) I agree that in the US, a woman is more likely to say mind your x, than a man. google books cannot resolve this kind of issue. It's really not resolvable unless you do a formal survey of men and women. So... – Lambie Feb 20 '17 at 19:53
  • I think it's clearly a result of there being far more American women than American men who watch exported BBC drawing room dramas. That's how the gentler sex is picking up this lingo. It's Anglophilia. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Feb 20 '17 at 19:53
  • I disagree. Way before that, my family was using mind your x: half from New England and the other half from the deep South. – Lambie Feb 20 '17 at 19:55
  • I'm joking, Lambie. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Feb 20 '17 at 19:55

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