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Imagine the following scenario:

Person A: I love this movie so much! The story is so beautiful!
Person B: Well, the story isn't true.

Now, person A has a few options in how to follow the conversation:

  1. Who cares if it's true. It's a nice story!
  2. Who cares if it isn't true. It's a nice story!
  3. Who cares that it isn't true. It's a nice story!

I reckon it's correct to use isn't, as the negative is used in the original statement, but I'm not exactly sure how if versus that changes the meaning.

Can anyone shed some insight on this?

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1 Answer 1

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Each of the options listed has a different implication. The alternatives are not the same and so are not interchangeable.

(1) Who cares if it is true. It's a nice story!
Even though you may understand it as 'whether it is true or not', strictly speaking the 'or not' is neither explicitly stated not is implied here.

(2) Who cares if it isn't true. It's a nice story!
The converse of the above situation, of course.

(3) Who cares that it isn't true. It's a nice story!
Here, it first clearly states that "it isn't true" and goes on to say that that fact doesn't matter to any one.

In line with the above logic, the fourth version would be:
(4) Who cares that it is true. It's a nice story!
The converse of (3), of course.

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So you're claiming that if keeps the listener doubting what the outcome really is, while that clearly defines the trueness of the situation. That's a nice point and I definitely agree, but could you give your opinion on what's the difference between using "is" versus "isn't" when preceded by "if"? These still seem interchangeable to me, especially if we agreed that "if" doesn't define the trueness of the situation, the "positive/negative" shouldn't matter at all. –  RiMMER Aug 15 '12 at 8:11
    
@FrantišekStanko: It's not really the "trueness" it's the speaker's belief. In other words, I could say, "It's not true." and if you believed me you might say, "I don't care that it's not true." But if you aren't ready to believe me you could say, "I don't care if it's not true." And that would be true whether I was telling you the truth or not. –  Jim Aug 15 '12 at 8:16
    
OK, this all sounds fine and I agree with you guys, just one more thing should be made clear: If you say, "It's not true." why cannot I answer with "I don't care if it's true." ? –  RiMMER Aug 15 '12 at 8:24
    
Why not? Perhaps, you could put it better: "I wouldn't care if it were true." :) –  Kris Aug 15 '12 at 8:26
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Formally, what's probably meant is "I don't care whether it's true"—*if* + is or isn't leaves wriggle room: the speaker who doesn't care 'if it's true' might conceivably care if it's not, and contrariwise. But formal correctness doesn't come into play; this is informal conversation, and any version will be understood. –  StoneyB Aug 15 '12 at 11:08
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