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bother: meaning and explanation

to bother = the make an effort

The verb bother can be used to talk about the effort required to do something. It can be used in several ways.

Don’t bother (doing something) and I wouldn’t bother (doing something) are both used to tell or advise someone that something is not worth the effort or that there is no need to do something. e.g. Don’t bother cooking for me – I ate a huge lunch so I’m not hungry.

This verb can also be used to criticise someone for being too lazy or too inconsiderate to do something – something was easy or possible to do, but they didn’t make the effort to do it. e.g. You could have offered to help me but you didn’t bother.

If you ask: “why bother?” then you are asking what the point or purpose of doing something is – why should I make the effort? e.g. I know I’m going to fail the exam, so why bother doing any work?

Saying that you don’t know why someone bothers is a way of saying that you don’t understand why someone (perhaps yourself) makes the effort to do something. e.g. I always try to cook nice food for my children but I don’t know why I bother – they never show any appreciation. 

can’t be bothered

When someone can’t be bothered to do something then they are feeling too lazy to do it, or they are too tired to motivate themselves to do it. e.g. I can’t be bothered to go to work today – can you call my boss and tell her I’m sick?

to bother someone = to annoy, disturb or worry someone

Another meaning to the verb bother is to annoy or disturb someone.

e.g. Please can you stop bothering me? I’m trying to work!

e.g. Don’t let this bother you while you’re away on holiday – I’ll take care of it.

Have a go at these micro-dictation exercises to hear this word being used in context – how much can you understand?

Listening exercises

Micro-listening #1

Accent: Northern England

I do up really .

Micro-listening #2

Accent: England (London)

Micro-listening #3

Accent: England (RP)


Extra practice

Here are some questions/links to help you learn the new vocabulary:

  • Is there anything that you’re too lazy to do, or that you don’t want to do because it is too much effort?
  • Is there a film or TV series that you think I shouldn’t bother watching?
  • Think of a (real) example sentence using the phrase “I don’t know why I bother”.

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