be careful what you say and be care with what you say

Discussion in 'English Only' started by 2loveIs2remember, Sep 23, 2010.

  1. 2loveIs2remember Senior Member


    I am wondering if there is any difference between the following two.

    Be careful what you say.

    Be careful with what you say.

    Thanks in advance.
  2. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod (English Only)

    To be careful with something is to handle it with care. To be careful (without the "with") is to be watchful, vigilant, wary.

    I am careful around her. = I am very watchful about what I do or say around her.
    I am careful with her. = I took good care of her.

    They mean very different things.

    Be careful what you say. = Be watchful/wary of what you say.
    Be careful with what you say. = Take good care of what you say. ??? (This doesn't make much sense in English, in my opinion.)
  3. Tazzler Senior Member

    American English
    The first one sounds natural, but on close inspection you can see that it is not gramatically correct; there needs to be a prepositon to connect the two ideas. I would say the second one is what you should use.
  4. EStjarn

    EStjarn Senior Member

    To me, Be careful what you say, sounds like a command more than an advice; it could even be a threat, such as: I'm warning you, say something I don't want to hear and the consequences will be dire. On the other hand, Be careful [about] what you say, does have the appearance of an advice; compared to the truncated form, it's a more polite way of expressing yourself. ~ A search of all corpora at (i.e. COCA, COHA, TIME, and BNC) for "careful * what you say" shows that four prepositions are used, of which with is the least common: of (11), about (10), in (6), with (2). From COCA, here's one example which uses with:

  5. boozer Senior Member

    I agree.

    And yet, I hear it so often, that it just can't be wrong! :)

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