Using afraid

Afraid and fear

Be afraid is the normal expression for talking about fear.

  • He is afraid of the dark.
  • Don’t be afraid. (NOT Don’t fear.) (NOT Don’t afraid.)
  • Are you afraid of spiders?
  • There is nothing to be afraid of.
  • She is afraid that you might get angry.

Difference between afraid of and afraid to


  • I was afraid of hurting his sentiments. (Because I had no intention to do so.)
  • I was afraid to offend him. (Because he might hit me.)

I’m afraid

I’m afraid is a polite way of giving information that will not be welcome.

  • I’m afraid your wife has fallen ill. (= I am sorry to tell you that your wife has fallen ill.)
  • I can’t help you, I’m afraid.

I’m afraid so and I’m afraid not are common in short answers.

  • ‘It is going to rain.’ ‘I’m afraid so.’
  • ‘Could you help me?’ ‘I’m afraid not.’

Not used before a noun
Afraid cannot be used to modify a noun in the attributive position. Instead, we use other expressions with similar meanings.

  • Jane is afraid. (BUT NOT Jane is an afraid woman.)
  • Jane is a frightened woman.

We can use very much to modify afraid.

  • I am very much afraid, I can’t meet you.