I was wondering whether Americans use "fluster" intransitively. The only dictionary which introduces the verb as both transitive and intransitive one is "The Free Dictionary" as in:


To make agitated, excited, or confused:

  • Shouts from the protesters flustered the speaker. I was flustered by my teacher's comments and began to stumble over my words.=


To become agitated, excited, or confused: a shy student who flusters easily.

Or it is more common to use it in a noun form rather than verbal form in AmE:

Get in a fluster:

  • The important thing when you're cooking for a lot of people is not to get in a fluster.

In brief, as you know we say:

I know we're short of time, but please Larisa, don't fluster me. (Transitively)

But I was wondering how an American normally uses it intransitively?

When the teacher said: "time is over, take the papers up," I ............. and forgot to check if I had written my name on my answer sheet.

a. flustered
b. got in a fluster (It seems to be a rare structure in everyday speech.)
c. got / was flustered (to me, they both mean the same)

  • 1
    I don't believe I have ever encountered it used intransitively. The OED lists an intransitive meaning, but the definition is "To be excited or eager; to move with agitation or confusion; to bustle", which is related to the current transitive sense, but is not the same. It has no examples since 1893, but the edntry has not been updated fully.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Dec 3, 2020 at 23:44
  • Then what would be you pick @Colin Fine?
    – A-friend
    Commented Dec 4, 2020 at 0:30
  • I got flustered (which is an informal version of I became flustered: it has the idea of changing state, which was flustered lacks).
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Dec 4, 2020 at 12:38
  • Which state @Colin Fine? I still do not get the point. May I ask you to provide me with some more information? If I'm not mistaken, "got flustered" and "become flustered" are correct while "was flustered is not". Do you confirm?
    – A-friend
    Commented Dec 4, 2020 at 12:53
  • 1
    No. Be flustered ("was flustered") refers to being in a state. Got and became refer to entering that state.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Dec 4, 2020 at 13:32

2 Answers 2


I have never seen fluster used intransitively. The OED has such a form, but the sense is "To be excited or eager; to move with agitation or confusion; to bustle", i.e. mostly about agitated movement, rather than about inner state; and where it is about inner state it is excitement not confusion. (The latest quotation is from 1893, but the entry may not have been updated since the 1890s)

The transitive verb to fluster is often used passively (He was flustered by the rush of sudden questions), but flustered is more often an adjective. In this adjectival use, be flustered refers to being in that state of confusion; for entering that state of confusion, we tend to use become or get flustered (same meaning; get is more informal).

So both Got flustered and was flustered are possible in the question: got implies that it was the teacher's question that prompted the fluster; was implies that the person was already flustered.


There's more leeway when discussing capabilities or tendencies to use the object of a verb as its subject. For instance:

"I don't scare easily." vs. "Other people don't scare me easily."
"This food keeps a long time" vs. "You can keep this food for a long time."

Other verbs that this applies to include "embarrass" and "confuse".

That doesn't mean that the verb can be used that way in general cases.

  • Well, 'a' is incorrect, but how about 'b' and 'c'?
    – A-friend
    Commented Dec 4, 2020 at 12:21

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