I know really is an adverb, and one that intensifies the verb. I also know that some adverbs go only in the beginning; in the middle or at the end of a sentence, and some can be placed in all three positions.

Take for example the phrase: I don't care

  • I really don't care

  • I don't really care

  • I don't care really

These three sound OK, but maybe I'm wrong? Could someone please describe the differences in meaning?

Ws2 suggested using don't know with quite in the comments below.

  • I quite don't know

  • I don't quite know

  • I don't know quite

Only the second one sounds acceptable. Why is that?

  • 2
    I agree, except that I don't think I'd say 'I don't quite care'. I might say 'I don't quite know', or 'I don't quite understand'. Those are ruminating expressions, which 'quite' seems to fit. But 'care' seems to me to require 'really'.
    – WS2
    Commented Jan 21, 2014 at 1:05
  • 1
    Hmm, I wasn't sure myself, but now you have verbalized it, I think you're right. I tried with "extremely" and that didn't work at all. We'll see if anyone answers, and now it's extremely late in the hour, I must sleep! I might change my phrase to "I don't understand", thanks for mentioning it.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jan 21, 2014 at 1:12

1 Answer 1


Of your "really" examples:

  1. I really don't care

  2. I don't really care

  3. I don't care really

I would claim that (3) needs a comma and it has the same meaning as (2).

I don't care, really

(2) and (3), therefore, roughly mean, "I am mostly apathetic about this." (1) means, "I very much do not care about this. [Stop bothering me.]"

There isn't anything inherently ungrammatical about your "quite" examples but they aren't typically used in American English. The most common would be (2): "I don't quite care [but I almost do.]" I've never encountered the other two.

If you look at "quite" in other contexts, this pattern plays out:

  1. I quite didn't make the meeting on time.

  2. I didn't quite make the meeting on time.

  3. I didn't make the meeting quite on time.

  4. I didn't make the meeting on time quite.

The only examples that are used in American English are (2) and (3). Contrast this with "really":

  1. I really didn't make the meeting on time.

  2. I didn't really make the meeting on time.

  3. I didn't make the meeting really on time.

  4. I didn't make the meeting on time, really.

(1) and (2) are common, (3) would sound weird but I can imagine someone saying it and (4) only works with the commma.

  • 1
    Although, for added dramatic effect and flair, you could also punctuate "I don't care, really" as "I don't care. Really!" Don Commented Feb 26, 2014 at 22:40
  • I've modified my question, you might like to edit your answer accordingly.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Apr 16, 2014 at 5:06
  • @Mari-LouA: I added rough meanings for the first examples. Switching "care" to "know" in your final set does not change the content of this answer significantly. Is there something that you feel isn't being explained well?
    – MrHen
    Commented Apr 16, 2014 at 14:30

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