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I usually hear "Be careful what you eat" and also Google is telling me that but it seems "Be careful for what you eat" to me right.

Could you please explain which one is right and why please?

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4 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Be careful what you eat is the normal expression, with Be careful of what you eat a possible alternative. I can't imagine any native speaker saying Be careful for what you eat.

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How is it different from "be careful for what you wished for" (Eminem's Song by the way :) ) –  Tarik Jul 26 '12 at 7:43
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@Dorian Gray: In that line the verb itself is 'wish for'. The first 'for' is not needed in Standard English, but popular songs, including, apparently, Mr Eminem's, often use other varieties of the language. –  Barrie England Jul 26 '12 at 7:49
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Thank you for taking your time and answering my question. –  Tarik Jul 26 '12 at 7:54
    
@DorianGray Actually, the Eminem song is correctly titled "Be careful what you wish for". Google's hits with respect to "Be careful for what you eat" could be due to statements such as "Be careful for what you eat decides how healthy you are". –  coleopterist Jul 26 '12 at 8:15
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Here's a relevant Ngram

Ngram of uses of "be careful..."

Be careful for is rather archaic. You may have heard it from Biblical quotations, for example Philippians 4:6 KJV, "Be careful for nothing" where it means "Do not be anxious about anything". From the Ngram you can see "Be careful for" has never been very widely used, and the specific phrase "Be careful for nothing" accounts for around half of all occurrences.

I suspect that you do not mean "Be anxious about what you eat," anyway; merely "Pay attention to it." [Edit: I doubt that Eminem meant "Be anxious" either, but poetry/music (or rap) is different from normal prose or speech.]

Normally these days, be careful is paired with about or of, and I believe those prepositions have subtly different usages which are principally idiomatic and difficult to formalise. My experience matches the Ngram and about is used more often than of. You are unlikely to go wrong using about.

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Thanks a bunch for this explanatory answer. –  Tarik Jul 26 '12 at 7:55
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To express the imperative form of using care about something, the following constructions may be used:

  • "Be careful that <action>" ("action" is a standalone sentence with "you" as the subject)

Be careful that you don't leave up the toilet seat.

  • "Be careful to <action>" ("action" consists of a verb with optional objects and qualifying phrases)

Be careful to not leave up the toilet seat.

Be careful not to leave up the toilet seat. (Alternate form: "to" and "not" may be inverted)

  • "Be careful <relative pronoun with qualifier>"

Be careful what you put on the toilet seat.

  • "Be careful of <object>" ("object" may be a relative pronoun with its qualifier; singular objects are preceded by "the")

Be careful of the broken toilet seat.

Note that the first two constructions above are most commonly used when suggesting that someone refrain from an action.

There is no such construction "Be careful for..."

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Fashions in choice of prepositiion come and go. However, I am surprised that no-one has yet mentioned be careful over(your work). Generally applied to situations where care is required, particularly care over a process rather than an event, I think.

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