I am uninterested in English.

I am disinterested in English.

Some grammar books say that the use of disinterested is wrong in the context as it means unbiased or impartial

But Michael Swan in his Practical English Usage did not say that it was wrong but said that some people consider it wrong.

My question is

is I am disinterested in English Right or wrong? do native speakers use disinterested in the context?


There is no governing body that dictates what is considered right or wrong usage of the English language. Much of the usage can be agree upon, but occasionally, there is disagreement.

That is the case here. Some say it's wrong; some say it's right. That's essentially what Swan is saying. Put another way, some of us could argue that those grammar books are wrong.

I checked a few dictionaries and they agreed on the usages of disinterested. Here's what Merriam-Webster has:

Definition of disinterested

1a : not having the mind or feelings engaged (see engaged sense 1) : not interested
// telling them in a disinterested voice
— Tom Wicker
// disinterested in women
— J. A. Brussel b : no longer interested
// husband and wife become disinterested in each other
— T. I. Rubin

2 : free from selfish motive or interest (see interest entry 1 sense 1a) : unbiased
// a disinterested decision
// disinterested intellectual curiosity is the lifeblood of real civilization
— G. M. Trevelyan

Judging from the entries, we can safely say that disinterested meaning not interested has currency, and so I am disinterested in English would be understood. Again, as Swan advises, this would we accepted by some and rejected by others. If you want to be safe, stick to "uninterested" meaning "not interested", and "disinterested" meaning "not biased".

M-W has a nice little piece on the history of the two words, Is This Cat 'Uninterested' or 'Disinterested'?. It gives the following:

According to our citation files, disinterested is most commonly used to mean “not biased; free from selfish motives," while uninterested is commonly used to mean "not interested." Yet when these words entered the language, uninterested meant "not biased; free from selfish motives" and disinterested meant "not interested."

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Michael Swan is being subtle.

Yes, "disinterested" is sometimes used to mean "uninterested". So you can use it this way. But some people avoid this meaning and consider it wrong.

You don't know if the person who hears you speak, or reads your writing will be a person who considers it wrong, and as a non-native speaker, you will get less forgiveness of "mistakes" like this. People will just assume that you don't know the "rules".

So don't use "disinterested" to mean "uninterested", but don't criticise other people if they do.

Actually "not interested" is better than "uninterested" in most situations:

I'm not interested in English.

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  • Though I am a nonnative speaker I want to speak and wrire correct but not Indian English or substandard English.Does my English sound substandard? – successive suspension Oct 12 '19 at 7:43
  • That question is a bit to broad to answer. The question about "disinterested" is answered by recommending "not interested" in most cases. – James K Oct 12 '19 at 7:46
  • @James.K your answer seems to be personal.It suggests that as a nonnative speaker I may make mistakes and can be excused. I know that disinterested is not correct.Eventhough I am a nonnative speaker I try to speak and write correct English. – successive suspension Oct 12 '19 at 8:19
  • I think what I am trying to say is that you are right to try to speak correct and standard English. My advice is to use "disinterested" only to mean "unbiased", even though some native speakers will use it to mean "uninterested". This is because if someone considers "disinterested=uninterested" to be wrong, they will judge you. And you will be judged differently because you are a non-native speaker of English. That is probably unfair, but that is reality. If you know using disinterested is not "correct" then that's great. – James K Oct 12 '19 at 8:35

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