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So you must be careful what you write on the Internet.

Regarding the sentence above, is it not supposed to be

So you must be careful with what you write on the internet.

For me the original sentence sounds wrong. Can someone explain to me why it is correct/wrong? Is the with not necessary?

Thank you.

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  • Yes, adding "with" would make it correcter. But the original is understood.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 2:48

2 Answers 2

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With the two sentences:

  • Be careful what you read on the internet
  • Be careful with what you read on the internet

There is definitely a distinction in meaning. The first means take care deciding what to read and what not to read; the second means take care before making use of the information that you have read.

Extrapolating that second meaning to the sentence

  • Be careful with what you write on the internet

doesn't make much sense. It's your readers who need to be careful with what you write on the internet.

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Both work, but they do have slightly different meanings. For example, consider the (valid) phrase, "Be careful what you wish for." This means that you should take care with your choice of the thing you wish for. If, on the other hand, one said, "Be careful with what you wish for.", that changes it to mean, you should take care in the action in which you use/employ the thing you wished for.

In your example, I think the distinction becomes more subtle. In the case of 'careful what you write', I think it implies that external actions will occur in response to what you write. In the case of 'careful with what you write', it implies more that what you write itself will have effects. In the latter case, again, it becomes more about the action with the thing than the nature of the thing itself.

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  • This answer makes a good distinction but is probably DV'd because you didn't reference a source. Why not add one, e.g., Google Ngram?
    – Xanne
    Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 6:57
  • I'd say that the downvoter (I haven't added one) is rejecting the statement that the default meaning of 'be careful with what you wish for' is 'use what you wish for carefully when you get it'. I agree with the downvoter. Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 23:26

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