Verbs in English can be both transitive and intransitive and it can cause some difficulty for English learners.

For example, the verb "bother" is one of them.

In this sentence:

  1. I am not the one to bother.

is bother a transitive verb or intransitive?

For example, can the intent of the utterer be

  1. I am not the one to bother (any one).

I mean the meaning of the first sentence is that the utterer is not the one that cause annoyance to others.

At the same time, I think it can also mean that the utterer is the one who is not upset about the issue known to listener or he is not the one who should make any effort about that (if we consider "bother" an intransitive verb I guess this meaning can be discerned).

Which meaning does a native speaker conceive of this sentence? Or can it mean both, which should be understood according to the context?

  • 3
    Did you find this sentence somewhere, or did you construct it yourself? It is a slightly strange sentence, and I think it would be ambiguous for native speakers too, but I would interpret it to mean "I am not the one who should be bothered (by someone else)."
    – stangdon
    Oct 31, 2022 at 15:03

2 Answers 2


No, transitive and intransitive bother have different meanings, and the transitive meaning always requires an object. I can't think of a counter example, even in constructions that sometimes omit an object.


Don't bother!

cannot mean

Don't bother me/him/them.

And in answer to "Will you ask her whether she wants a cup of tea"

No, I won't bother.


No, I won't bother her.

have completely different meanings (even if the likely action taken is the same).


I am not one to bother

unambiguously means that I am not somebody who will take the trouble to do something. It cannot mean anything about bothering other people.

  • Also I can see that you have omitted the "the" before "one". Is it wrong to say "the one" because one is a pronoun here?
    – alireza
    Oct 31, 2022 at 15:14
  • In the OP's example sentence, in the transitive parsing of the sentence, the object of "bother" is the speaker, as in, "I'm not the one that you should be bothering".
    – gotube
    Oct 31, 2022 at 15:45
  • @alireza: it is possible both with and without the, but the meaning is different. Without "the", it means "I am not somebody to bother", which is more natural with the intransitive meaning. With "the", it means "I am not the particular person to bother", which makes sense with the tranitive meaning.
    – Colin Fine
    Oct 31, 2022 at 16:00
  • @gotube: you're right, and I had missed that parse.
    – Colin Fine
    Oct 31, 2022 at 16:00
  • 1
    @alireza No, your sample sentence cannot mean that. It roughly means either "You shouldn't disturb me" or "I don't bother (to do something)".
    – gotube
    Oct 31, 2022 at 18:17

It could mean either of your suggestions.

The meaning may be understood from context. You are using the verb intransitively.

"Some people were annoyed but I'm not one to bother" - the speaker is not bothered.

To get the second sense, you need to specify who might be bothered, because you are using 'bother' in its transitive sense.

"I know I am cold, but I'm not one to bother anyone about it" - the speaker will not bother anyone.

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