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When we say "never mind that" to mean disregard or don't worry about, is it a verb altogether (a phrasal verb) or is "mind" the verb that's modified by the adverb never? Examples:

Never mind what he told you
Never mind his suggestions

You can say "Mind his suggestions." although that would sound old-fashioned. Is "never mind" just the negation of that with the adverb never?

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'Never' is certainly not used with the usual meaning here; 'Never mind what he said to you last week' is very different from 'Never worry about what he said to you'. I'd agree that there is a cohesiveness between 'never' and 'mind'.

In fact, never mind is listed by the dictionaries I've checked in as a 'phrase' or an 'idiom', eg by the Cambridge Dictionary of American Idioms:

never mind (somebody/something): do not worry about someone or something

“I lost that wallet you gave me.” “Well, never mind, I can always buy you another one.”

Never mind Susan – she can get a ride home with someone else.

I avoid the term 'phrasal verb' as being too ambiguous, and this is different again from what most people using the terms would include as a 'phrasal verb' (* I never mind etc) but this is surely better regarded as a multi-word construction than 'adverb + verb'.

  • Isn't "never" kind of acting as an intensifier here, i.e., the phrase is a stronger version of "don't mind"? – Harry Johnston Mar 20 '16 at 21:15
  • It might well have been at one time, but 'never mind' is a hedged form nowadays, far more often used with kiddies than 'don't mind [what he did etc]'. And a bare 'don't mind' sounds unidiomatic, while 'don't you mind' sounds very old-fashioned. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 20 '16 at 23:41
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If you want to desperately enough, you can get away with analyzing "never mind" as a phrasal verb, but it would be a strangely vestigal example of one: It exists only in the imperative, and loses its idiomatic meaning if you try to make an infinitive or indicative form of it.

However, it doesn't appear to be terribly useful to consider "never mind" a phrasal verb.

Namely, "never mind" does not have the form that ordinary phrasal verbs in English have, which consists of an ordinary verb first, followed by a stressed particle. The purpose of singling out a class of expressions as "phrasal verbs" is so that we can identify commonalities between their syntax -- for example, phrasal verbs follow common patterns for whether the particle comes before of after a direct object, and those patterns do not apply to "never mind" at all.

  • That's according to one classification. The terminology, as has been stated many times on ELU, is inconsistent. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 20 '16 at 23:37
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This is an idiomatic expression, not a phrasal verb. In this expression, the word mind means ‘consider’ or ‘remember’, a usage still current in Scots English, where one might routinely say, ‘Mind we're going for a beer later,’ or ‘Mind that game last Friday.’ (The BBC gives a couple of historical examples here). A familiar example is Auld Lang Syne:

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

And never brought to mind?

‘Mind’, here, is ‘active, conscious memory’ (paralleling ‘forgot’).

The expression ‘Never mind’ still carries this sense. Its general sense is, ‘Don’t spend time reflecting on [whatever it was].’

A subtlety in this context is that ‘never’ means ‘don’t ever’. That might seem identical, and as a literal instruction it would of course be equivalent. In this case, however, the important idea is ‘don’t’, and it is intensified by ‘ever’.

The initial meaning of ‘mind’ here is something like ‘remember with focused attention’. ‘Never mind’ therefore ends up meaning something like ‘It’s not worth conscious effort.’

The force of the expression evolves like this, then:

Mind something (remember it and reflect on it)

Don’t mind it (ignore it: it isn’t that important)

Never mind it (do not ever waste your time giving it any attention)

This is all related to the sense of ‘mind’ in usages like ‘Mind the gap’, familiar to any regular user of the London Underground. This common announcement is an instruction to remember and attend to the gap between train and platform, when embarking or alighting.

In fact, this announcement reminds you: it puts something back into your conscious attention, just in case you were about to act without attending to it.

And if someone ever says to you something along the lines of, ‘But that was your turn, mind’ (a pretty common kind of construction in British English), once again ‘mind’ essentially means ‘specifically recall’.

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Few days before I have installed idioms and phrases application and I found "Never mind" in that application.

Here is the full definition. Never mind: Don't be concerned about it; ignore what was just said Example

■ When he spilled his drink on my coat, I said, "Never mind. It needs to be cleaned anyway." ■ So you weren't listening to me again. Never mind; it wasn't important.

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    Thanks Sarah, but while this nicely defines "never mind", and includes a dictionary definition (always nice to see!) it doesn't seem to address the core question: is "never mind" considered a phrasal verb? For an example of the kind of answer the original poster was looking for, see the other answer. – Dan Bron Mar 20 '16 at 18:09
  • @DanBron Most welcome and yes you are right :). – Sarah Mar 20 '16 at 18:48

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