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'We care for us'

or

'We care about us'?

What sentence is actually right? Maybe both sentences are good?

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Both are pretty unlikely sentences on the face of it. It would be helpful if you could give some idea of the context in which you envisage them being used. –  Barrie England Jan 23 '12 at 13:53
    
They are both fine, but mean different things, except when someone uses "care for" to mean "care about" — in which case the meaning can be ambiguous. Also, the negative of "care for" can be used to express a dislike of something. –  Robusto Jan 23 '12 at 13:55
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2 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Neither sentence is actually correct. When the object of the preposition is the same as the subject in sentences such as these, the second pronoun must be changed to the reflexive. So the following are grammatically correct as far as the pronouns are concerned:

We care for ourselves.

We care about ourselves.

Both of these sentences are correct, but they mean different things. In the first sentence, you use the verb to care for, which means either "to think fondly of" or "to treat". In the second you say to care about, which means "to consider something important".

(There is an idiom under which it's possible to say We care about 'us', using "us" as a noun to refer to the partners in a romantic relationship. But I'm pretty sure this is not what you mean.)

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Must is a pretty strong word here. Consider this rhetorical question and answer: "Who cares about us? We care about us." It is an example of hypophora, and to be symmetrical the use of epistrophe demands that the reflexive be avoided. This is a legitimate use, and one that is, I might add, stylistically fine. –  Robusto Jan 23 '12 at 14:41
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@Robusto, good points all. I leave your comment as an explanation of what's going on here. –  JSBձոգչ Jan 23 '12 at 15:11
    
@Robusto: True, but JSBangs statement is still USUALLY true. He should have said, "is generally changed to ..." rather than "must be changed to ...". That applies to almost anything you say about language: There are always special cases for emphasis, rhetorical effect, poetic rhythm, etc. –  Jay Jan 23 '12 at 16:10
    
@Jay: Which is why my first sentence reads "Must is a pretty strong word here." –  Robusto Jan 23 '12 at 16:19
    
@Robusto: But your example is extreme, to say the least. Many totally non-grammatical usages could be "justified" in really unusual circumstances, such as a contrived answer to a contrived question. I'm not saying you're 100% wrong, but I'm not convinced it's meaningful to create exceptions to strong, effectively universally-recognised, rules of correct grammar in this way. –  FumbleFingers Jan 23 '12 at 21:10
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Well, it depends what you want to say.

Firstly, although "us" isn't wrong, sounds more natural to use "ourselves".

We care for ourselves

We care about ourselves

Secondly, there are the meanings of care for and care about.

Care about means having an interest in something:

"I care about the environment."

"I care about crime statistics."

Care for can be synonymous with care about, but more usually it means "look after":

"I care for my grandchildren while my daughter is working."

So:

"We care about ourselves." - we are concerned about our own wellbeing

"We care for ourselves." - we look after ourselves

You might also consider:

"We take care of ourselves." - a common phrase for "we look after ourselves".

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Thank you! Unfortunately it's impossible here to accept both answers, but your answer has good explanations too. –  abdmob Jan 23 '12 at 14:32
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