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Don’t mind if I do

When we say, “Don’t mind if I do,” what is the subject we are omitting? Is it:

I don’t mind if I do.


You don’t mind if I do.

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The subject being omitted is I: I DON'T MIND IF I DO.

dave July 6, 2007, 4:27am

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i think the latter one is more correct

prithi chand July 6, 2007, 4:27am

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In my experience, I DON'T MIND IF I DO is as frequent as the abridged DON'T MIND IF I DO, where YOU DON'T MIND IF I DO is never heard.

dave July 6, 2007, 4:33am

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Suppose I'm invited to a party where the host comes around to me with a box of fancy chocolates. She says, "Here, take as many as you want." And I say, "Don't mind if I do." In this scenario, it does not make much sense to state that I do not mind if I have chocolates. (Why should I mind?) What would make more sense is to ask: "Are you sure you don't mind if I took a lot of them?" So, I feel that what is implied in the expression is actually a question of whether the person who is offering something minds my action or not. Or, it could be a request, as in: "Please don't feel bothered if I took a lot of chocolates."

"Don't mind if I do," is considered a polite way of saying yes when someone offers something to you, but I personally find it rude if the implication is in fact, "I don't mind if I do." "I don't mind..." means that I would not be bothered by it. So, if someone asks me to do something I might not want to do, the polite way to say yes is to say, "I don't mind..." For instance, at a party, the host asks me, "We need to get more beer, but I can't leave. Would you mind running out to get a six pack?" To that, I might reply, "I don't mind if I do." But when someone is trying to do something nice to me, why would I imply that I might potentially be bothered by it? It's like playing hard-to-get. Instead of saying, "I would love it," I'm saying, "I would not be bothered by it." It is rude to imply that someone might actually be bothered by the offering of chocolates.

"I" would make sense if the intention is to be sarcastic or tongue-in-cheek, but in that sense, it's not polite either. In other words, it is equivalent to saying, "These chocolates look disgusting. I'll help you get rid of them." However, in most situations where this expression is used, sarcasm seems inappropriate. This is why I feel that "You don't mind if I do?" or "Please don't mind if I do." seems more appropriate.

In any case, I wonder where the expression originated.

Dyske July 6, 2007, 5:15am

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If what is being omitted is indeed the "I", then why was it ever dropped? Can you think of other expressions where the "I" is omitted? The omission makes sense if the statement is a request, as in: "Don't mind me."

Dyske July 6, 2007, 5:31am

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It just occurred to me: If “Don’t mind if I do,” is actually a request (as in “Please don’t mind if I take a lot of chocolates.”), then the subject is not being omitted in that sentence. It is a complete sentence. This means that, even if we hear a lot of people say, “I don’t mind if I do,” and never hear anyone say, “You don’t mind if I do,” it does not prove that the “I” is being omitted or implied. It is possible that those who say, “I don’t mind...” are misusing the expression.

If the expression is supposed to be polite, then I could imagine it originating in England where a host offers a cup of tea, and the guest replies, “Please don’t mind if I do indeed want a cup of tea.” In other words, it’s a different way of saying, “If it’s not too much trouble, yes, I would indeed love a cup of tea.”

Dyske July 6, 2007, 5:58am

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I think it's a jocular kind of thing, particularly omitting the I (which I do believe is omitted)--if the host is prone to over-analysis and is very, very easily offended I could see how he or she might think it rude for someone to say he doesn't mind accepting the offered kindness, but hopefully I never meet such a person. Although, as I'm from the northeast, I'm not particularly inclined to use that phrase anyway.

Jessica July 6, 2007, 8:30am

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This is an interesting page I found. According to it, the phrase "I don't mind if I do" was popularized in the 40s through this radio program. Unfortunately, this does not clear up this issue since the addition of the "I" could have been part of this joke. If "Please don't mind if I do" was how the expression was known before this radio show, adding the "I" would make it funny. It would have turned a polite expression into a rude/selfish one, which this character apparently was.

My theory is that "Please don't mind if I do" was the original expression, and this radio show made adding of the "I" popular. Now, many people do not realize that the addition was actually a joke, and use it even in situations where they should not be joking.

Dyske July 6, 2007, 7:08pm

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Dyske, couldn't the original expression as well be "[Hope you] don't mind if I do."

goossun July 15, 2007, 3:31pm

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These two possibilities feel most probable to me:

1) It is simply an imperative sentence, so no subject is needed, but "you" is understood.

2) "If you" was omitted from the beginning of the phrase, which would read "If you don't mind if I do...", a sentence fragment which is completed by the action of doing, e.g. taking a bonbon. Often, when I am offered something graciously, I find myself replying "well, if you're sure you don't mind, then I will." "If you don't mind if I do" makes good sense as a social nicety, but is awkward, for which reason the beginning would have been lopped off.

Regarding UK English, the verb "mind" has a slightly different meaning than in the States. When people say "I don't mind" there it means "I have no preference" or "I don't care", rather than "it doesn't bother me". Though, having said that, both seem equally well suited to suggestions made above.

Fabien July 30, 2007, 10:01am

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By imperative, it makes sense (second person), but people took it from the original:

I do not mind whether I do [this or not].

David August 23, 2007, 3:24am

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I oftenly use the phrase, and don't even know how, where or why I picked it up.

Ofcourse the impression it makes is context dependant.

Most people get my meaning, many don't and make some comment about how the sentence "should've been formed" or just some eye rolling smirky remark.

Mind you, I live in sweden, and we speak, duh - swedish - so people would be even more word-analytical here than uk/us/wherever natives would be - I assume.

Like this:
I'm offered a drink or some chocolate at a party.

I respond: "Don't mind if I do", with a smile. Meaning that I'd love it indeed, and putting it in a cozy way, equating with the person offering it. Never an "I" spoken in front of it. But, yes, definitely the subject is "I".

That's it. The WORDS in them self don't mean shit. It's a phrase, ok?

But, yes I do think it has to be said to someone who accepts your way, or that you really think level with you. For someone who's not light hearted, is rigid or the like, or in _such an occasion_ (a funeral...) it would ofcourse be highly inappropiate.

Spending your time breaking sentences apart are oftenly useless.

Now, I could add that, people who do not get what I really mean by facial expression and intonation is just one kind of people. And it's good to catch a persons way of communicating early. More autistic-spectra or more socially aware adn capable? Accepting or reserved?
I also enjoy weird reactions as well as expected. So whatever.

I invent my own expressions all the time, words are, after all, NOT that important in the end when it comes to everyday social communications. Well... except for those akin more to the autistic-spectra side of mind or something where you instead, indeed, have to choose them carefully. (Please, do not over emphasize these generalizations on "mind types")

(disclaimer: as said, I'm not a native english-speaker, so here's a big [SIC] for all misspellings [sic], hehe)

Oscar Campbell November 18, 2008, 12:07pm

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I personally think that Dyske's explanation is correct. Althought I think both phrases make sense, I prefer the "you" connotation. It just... makes me feel better. :)

PR January 15, 2009, 7:20am

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'Don't mind if I do" conjures up an inage of American hillbilly type language that I must have been exposed to from old-time American television shows. I seem to have an image in my mind that it was an expression used by Pa Kettle (of Ma and Pa Kettle movies). That would be from the 40's and 50's.

gidgegary January 15, 2009, 9:05pm

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Jed Clampett may also have used this expression.

gidgegary January 15, 2009, 9:50pm

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"Don't mind if I do." is omitting the "I", but it the reason people say it is jocular is because it is ironic. "It will not be a great deal of effort to comply with your offer." It means, "I believe I will." but in an more enthusiastic way.
It adds emphasis to how burden-free the suggestion sounds to the listener.
"Please feel free to get the phone numbers of our lingere models."; "Please grab as many left-over slices of tri-tip as you wish."; "Would you like to use the restroom after your long trip, before we drive to the restaurant?"
In print, it is hard to understand, but when you see it being used it makes more sense.

Spiffy January 19, 2009, 8:28pm

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I agree with Fabien (I believe?), who said that because it is an imperative sentence, the "you" is implied. It simply makes the most sense. There's no backwards meaning to it in this form. "I don't mind if I do," seems redundant to me. Well, of course you "don't mind" if you're replying in the affirmative. I don't think there's anything omitted from the phrase as is. For me, making this mistake is on par with when people say "I could care less." ("I could NOT care less" being the only thing that makes sense in the intended usage.)

Hey, bartender! March 24, 2009, 7:58am

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I'm very surprised by several contributions proclaiming that the understood pronoun is "I," when in almost every usage of the imperative mood (commands), the understood pronoun is "you."

"Don't mind if I do" is the prescriptively correct way of giving the polite command, "Don't (you) mind if I do." The subject is "you." This goes for most commands: Be my bride! (Be [you] my bride!); Eat your dinner (Eat [you] your dinner); etc.

punkrunnercard September 8, 2009, 1:12pm

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What is being missed in this discussion is that "don't mind if I do" is idiomatic speech, and therefore beyond the strictures of standard grammar. The phrase is generally used in response to an offer or invitation, such as "have another drink." It would be illogical, even impolite, to accept such an offer with "you don't mind if I do." A more sensible reading of the idiom centers on the word "mind," in the sense of "attention." A broadened form of the idiom might be "pay me no mind [attention] if I do so." Yes, technically that is a command. But idiomatically it only makes sense as a form of "thank you, I will." To modern ears the phrase may seem archaic, but its intent was to be deferential.

douglas.bryant September 8, 2009, 3:49pm

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Ok, you're in a restaurant. During dessert, your server comes to the table and says: "Would you like some more coffee?" You think for a moment, then reply: "I wouldn't mind that at all, why thank you." Now I ask you, does that exchange sound at all awkward to any of you? I think not. "Don't mind if I do" is just an informal way of saying the same thing.

When someone offers something, expressing that you wouldn't (or don't) mind isn't rude at all. If anything, it's a natural consequence of our upbringing. We're taught from an early age to downplay our desires, not "I want" or "can I", but "may I please". It's just a socially acceptable way of expressing a desire in a more roundabout way. Of course, there's nothing wrong with just "yes, please", but "don't mind if I do" with an elided "I" is an even less direct, and, therefore, perhaps more gentile way of asking for more.

porsche September 8, 2009, 11:34pm

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delph December 28, 2011, 7:37pm

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Spiffy is most correct. I am an English speaker, and I use this expression quite often. It is an ironic idiom most similar to, "twist my arm". As in "Q: Would you like this money, I found it on the ground? A: Well if you must twist my arm." Or "B: I don't mind if I do."

It is ironic that you must be corrected to accept such a thing, and is said tongue in cheek.

The "I" is most definitely the subject being omitted, but the expression is not literal or impolite.

JoshK April 30, 2013, 4:46pm

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Oops, sorry for the typo that was supposed to be "coerced" not "corrected".

JoshK April 30, 2013, 4:49pm

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douglas.bryant, porsche and JoshK have more or less said it all. I don't know about American English, but it's quite common in British English, and it's never occurred to me that it could be anything but "I". Simply checking with a dictionary confirms this. Oxford Dictionary Online lists the idiom as "(I) don't mind if I do", as does the Free Dictionary.

Warsaw Will May 1, 2013, 6:26am

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Yes     No