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Recently I had a deep discussion with an American person born and raised in the USA who said that when I say "take care with something" it makes absolutely no sense. That was said because she had never heard "take care with" (meaning "be careful") , but only "take care of" (which means something completely different from what I want to convey).

  • May I use "Take care with the cars" instead of "Be careful with the cars", for instance?
  • May I use "Take care!" instead of "Watch out!" ?

Or will it make no sense to USA North Americans? What about to British people?

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'Take care' as a standalone statement is used as a farewell. I would not use it to say 'Watch out'.

'Take care with (x)' is a perfectly valid way to say 'Be careful with (x)'. - This is actually a valid definition from the Oxford Dictionary

The answer to your first question is yes. The answer to your second question is no.

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    In Britain it's much the same, though perhaps the answer to the second question is 'Maybe'; maiden aunts and the like notoriously say "Oh, do take care!". – Tim Lymington Jun 24 '14 at 17:20
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    It's true that "Take care!" is usually an admonition to be careful over some extended period of time, and "Watch out!" usually applies to an imminent danger. But the dividing line is vague, so I don't really endorse your final sentence. Of course, things are further confused in recent years by the fact that more and more people just use "Take care" to mean nothing more than "Goodbye". – FumbleFingers Jun 24 '14 at 17:26
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    I'd agree that it can be interchangeable with watch out in some sentences. Watch out as a stand alone sentence is used almost exclusively to draw attention to an imminent hazard, take care is never used in this context. I didn't claim they were never interchangeable, I specifically referred to their use as stand alone sentences. – Dave Magner Jun 24 '14 at 17:41
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    So probably the second affirmation "no" should be changed to "maybe", right?" – ClayKaboom Jun 25 '14 at 19:30
  • No. "Take care" should never be used in place of "watch out". EDIT: If @FumbleFingers thinks that statement isn't entirely sound then there is a good chance it's not. – Dave Magner Jun 25 '14 at 20:24

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