Commonly Confused Words: Disinterested/Uninterested

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If you don’t care about a case outcome, are you disinterested or uninterested?

Disinterested (adjective):

  • Disinterested is an adjective that describes someone who is neutral, objective, and impartial: “The judge remained disinterested throughout the trial.”

Uninterested (adjective):

  • Uninterested is an adjective that describes someone who lacks interest, curiosity, or enthusiasm: “The plaintiff seemed uninterested in answering this new line of questioning from the State.”

Rule: If a person is NEUTRAL, use disinterested; if a person LACKS interest, use uninterested.

  • Tip: Judges are disinterested arbiters who dislike their motives being questioned.

I hope after this lesson that you’re not too uninterested in completing the following practice problems.

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1. True/False: The underlined word is correct. The juror was clearly uninterested in her testimony, evidenced by his incessant yawning throughout the direct examination.

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2. True/False: The underlined word is correct. Her uninterest in her boyfriend's excuse for being late was apparent.

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3. True/False: The underlined word is correct. Opposing counsel was uninterested in making his initial disclosures in a timely manner.

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4. True/False: The underlined word is correct. The judge’s acceptance of Taylor Swift tickets from Defendant’s brother-in-law seriously called into question whether he was a disinterested arbiter.

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5. True/False: The underlined word is correct. Although the settlement offer was fair, my client was disinterested in hearing more.

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