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How To Use ‘Uninterested’ and ‘Disinterested’ Correctly

Knowing the difference between ‘Uninterested’ and ‘Disinterested’ enriches your vocabulary and deepens your comprehension when ‘Disinterested’ is used. Where ‘Uninterested’ is more commonly used, ‘Disinterested’ doesn’t get the fair treatment of being used correctly. In this blog post, we’ll explore the differences between ‘Uninterested’ and ‘Disinterested’, three sets of examples with Bahasa Melayu translations for ease of comprehension, and a tip on how to easily identify when to use which.

Being aware of the difference between these two words would benefit the depth of your vocabulary. Not only that, research has also shown that a good vocabulary quickens thought processing which allows for the expansion of abstract thinking. Honestly, who wouldn’t want that?

First and foremost, let’s look into the definitions of the two words:
Uninterested: Not Interested, Not Concerned, Lack of Interest.
Disinterested: Impartial, Unbiased, Without Vested Interest.

The difference in meaning is quite straight forward. But in building sentences using ‘Uninterested’ and ‘Disinterested’, one needs to discern the definition of ‘Disinterest’ away from the usual interpretation of ‘Interested’ that is linked to ‘Curiosity’. Let’s look into some examples to see differences between ‘Uninterested’ and ‘Disinterested’ with more clarity.

Example 1.

Encik Ali is a car salesman. He earns by commission. He is uninterested in selling lower end cars to maximise his profit.
Encik Abu is a security guard at a car dealership. He doesn’t earn by commission. He is able to give disinterested opinions about cars when asked.

The two sentences show that Encik Ali is not concerned with making small commissions. While Encik Abu gives unbiased opinions about cars. In this example, we see that ‘Uninterested’ means ‘Not Concerned’ and ‘Disinterested’ means ‘Unbiased’.

Now let’s look into the Bahasa Melayu translations of both sentences for clarity of comprehension.

Encik Ali seorang jurujual kereta. Dia menerima komisen, maka dia tidak berminat untuk menjual kereta gred rendah untuk memaksimumkan keuntungannya.
Encik Abu pula seorang pengawal keselamatan di sebuah pusat jualan kereta. DIa tidak menerima komisen, maka dia boleh memberi pendapat yang adil berkaitan kereta sekiranya ditanya.

Note that ‘Uninterested’ carries the meaning of ‘Tidak Berminat‘ and ‘Disinterested’ carries the meaning of ‘Adil‘. Recall earlier where it was mentioned that ‘Uninterested’ is ‘Not Interested and ‘Disinterested’ is ‘Without Vested Interest’. Not having vested interest is when you are neutral to an outcome. In Encik Abu’s case, he is neutral as to which car a customer decides to buy from the car dealership.

Example 2.

Cik Dilla is uninterested to try the new restaurant.
Cik Dilla is disinterested to try the new restaurant.

The translations of Example 2 in Bahasa Melayu are as the following:
Cik Dilla tidak berminat untuk mencuba restoran itu.
Cik Dilla tidak kisah untuk mencuba restoran itu.

A huge difference can be seen in the Bahasa Melayu translation above. ‘Uninterested’ carries the meaning of ‘Tidak Berminat‘, and ‘Disinterested’ is ‘Tidak Kisah‘. As mentioned earlier, ‘Disinterest’ is when one has no vested interest in influencing an outcome. We must be aware that ‘Interest’ also means ‘Stake’, and having ‘No Stake’ means ‘Disinterest’.

Example 3.

Rakyat is angry as YB is uninterested to solve Rakyat’s suffering during MCO.
Rakyat is happy as YB is disinterested in solving Rakyat’s suffering during MCO.

How can two seemingly similar words elicit opposing reactions from the Rakyat? Let’s look into their Bahasa Melayu translations.

Rakyat marah kerana YB tidak berminat untuk menyelesaikan penderitaan rakyat semasa PKP.
Rakyat gembira kerana YB berkecuali dalam menyelesaikan penderitaan rakyat semasa PKP.

Notice how ‘Uninterested’ carries the meaning of ‘Tidak Berminat‘ and ‘Disinterested’ carries the meaning of ‘Berkecuali‘. Being ‘Disinterested’, having no vested interest, being unbiased, and being impartial, would the Rakyat be happy with YB.


So what is the easiest way to identify when to use ‘Uninterested’ and when to use ‘Disinterested’? Easy, just remember that ‘Uninterested’ is ‘Not Interested’.

Or, you can memorise this: A judge must be disinterested, but not uninterested.

I hope the blog post today helps you with differentiating ‘Uninterested’ and ‘Disinterested’ so that you can communicate effectively. In my book, The Janitor’s Elysium – Grammar Errors Begone!, I state eleven common grammar errors among Malaysians. I also state why such grammar errors happen and how we can correct ourselves. It is my belief that the narrative carried by The Janitor’s Elysium allows the learning of grammar more effective and practical. You may get the book here.

Until then, remember to communicate your ‘brains’ effectively so the world can benefit from your knowledge.

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