English language -- difference between "serious" and "careful"?

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What is the difference between "serious" and "careful"?
 

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  • #2
jtbell
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In what context? Can you give specific examples of sentences or phrases where the use of those words confuses you?
 
  • #3
gleem
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Basically careful means paying close attention to detail, a cautiousness in avoiding mistakes.

Serious means not frivolous, a concern for what really matters.
 
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  • #4
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Basically careful means paying close attention to detail, a cautiousness in avoiding mistakes.

Serious means not frivolous, a concern for what really matters.
In what context? Can you give specific examples of sentences or phrases where the use of those words confuses you?
So if i say "He is very careful" it means that he pays great attention to what he does.
and if i say "He is very serious" it means that he is very concerned about getting his work done?
 
  • #5
gleem
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Yes, careful pertains to how he does something. where serious pertains more about how he feels about something or doing something. You can be careful but not necessarily serious about doing something. When you are serious since it is more a frame of mind you might also be careful but not necessarily.
 
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  • #6
russ_watters
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So if i say "He is very careful" it means that he pays great attention to what he does.
and if i say "He is very serious" it means that he is very concerned about getting his work done?
Also, "careful" is generally used in the context of safety or risk, but "serious" does not have to be.
 
  • #7
PeroK
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I must admit I'm struggling to see "careful" and "serious" as near synonyms in any context.
 
  • #8
Stephen Tashi
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I must admit I'm struggling to see "careful" and "serious" as near synonyms in any context.

If "synonym" is like idea of "isomorphic", perhaps grammarians have an idea corresponding to "homomorphic". For example, there can be many situations where "serious" implies "careful". "He made a serious attempt to disarm the bomb."
 
  • #9
gleem
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It doesn't seem the careful and serious share any synonyms that might link them.

For example it could be that there are many situation where "serious" implies "careful". "He made a serious attempt to disarm the bomb."

I do not think that serious as used here necessarily implies careful. Indeed this is a serious situation and it matters gravely that he be careful and it may be an exacting and demanding operation and he should be serious in disarming the bomb but still careful is not implied.
 
  • #10
russ_watters
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I must admit I'm struggling to see "careful" and "serious" as near synonyms in any context.
There is some overlap in their usage:

"After serious consideration..."
"After careful consideration..."

If anything, careful might be a subset of serious or require seriousness but I'm not sure that really makes them synonomous.
 
  • #11
PeroK
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There is some overlap in their usage:

"After serious consideration..."
"After careful consideration..."

If anything, careful might be a subset of serious or require seriousness but I'm not sure that really makes them synonomous.

Okay, that's one. On the other hand, you could have McEnroe's famous outburst:

"You cannot be serious!", becomes:
"You cannot be careful!".

Or, if you are a Pink Floyd fan:

"Careful with that Axe, Eugene" becomes
"Serious with that Axe, Eugene"
 
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  • #12
russ_watters
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Or, if you are a Pink Floyd fan:

"Careful with that Axe, Eugene" becomes
"Serious with that Axe, Eugene"
Evidently I'm not as serious a Pink Floyd fan as I thought.
 
  • #13
gleem
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It doesn't seem the careful and serious share any synonyms that might link them.

Both serious and careful share the synonym thoughtful so there's a link.
 
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I am not an English-speaker, so I may be wrong in this, but I think being serious is an attitude a person takes, i.e., it may mean a person is determined to do what he/she is intended to do, or he/she is not taking things easy, while being careful is related to actions and how they are done.
 
  • #15
gleem
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Serious can apply objectively to a situation, e.g. The fire was a serious incident. You are correct in that careful is related to the way a person does something as "He made a careful observation."
 
  • #16
symbolipoint
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Try checking each of the words in a dictionary and decide if the definitions help.


Without actually doing that, "serious" suggests importance. "Careful" suggests watch for important details. Maybe I really should check a dictionary.
 
  • #18
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Actually google dictionary uses the word careful in the explaination of serious.It causes confusion.
This is a pair of words no one talks about yet a lot of non- primary english speakers have an issue in distuinguishing
 
  • #19
symbolipoint
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Actually google dictionary uses the word careful in the explaination of serious.It causes confusion.
This is a pair of words no one talks about yet a lot of non- primary english speakers have an issue in distuinguishing
These may be a couple of words that each person needs to acquire, and not only rely on formally studying them.
 
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  • #21
symbolipoint
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Suyash Singh

Can you describe an example in which you wish to choose between "careful" and "serious" ?
 
  • #22
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Suyash Singh

Can you describe an example in which you wish to choose between "careful" and "serious" ?
I am very serious/careful about my work
 
  • #23
jim hardy
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I subscribe to Webster's "Word of the Day " emails. You might enjoy it.
 
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  • #24
symbolipoint
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Suyash Singh

Can you describe an example in which you wish to choose between "careful" and "serious" ?
I am very serious/careful about my work
No way to distinguish what you meant for that example. You could mean BOTH of them and be correct, or you might mean exactly one of them but not the other. I would ask, for clarification, "what do you mean"?
 
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  • #25
jtbell
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I am very serious/careful about my work
Do you mean "serious" as opposed to "frivolous", or "careful" as opposed to "sloppy"?
 
  • #26
PeroK
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I am not an English-speaker, so I may be wrong in this, but I think being serious is an attitude a person takes, i.e., it may mean a person is determined to do what he/she is intended to do, or he/she is not taking things easy, while being careful is related to actions and how they are done.

I don't think you can distinguish them like that. You can definitely be serious in your actions. E.g.

I'm in serious training for the marathon. But, I must be careful not to get injured.

He committed a serious crime. And, after careful consideration, the court sentenced him to a term of imprisonment..

That's a serious mistake! You must be more careful.

There was a serious road accident. Caused by careless driving.

It's interesting that these words cause confusion. To a native speaker they seem very different. Although, both are for English typically flexible and can be used in a wide range of contexts. So, I guess there is no easy way to explain all the differences. But, perhaps the examples above help.
 
  • #27
gleem
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Actually google dictionary uses the word careful in the explaination of serious.It causes confusion.
This is a pair of words no one talks about yet a lot of non- primary english speakers have an issue in distuinguishing

Both on-line Cambridge and Merriam-Webster dictionaries clearly distinguish between serious and careful.
 
  • #28
Merlin3189
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