Afraid means ‘frightened’.
- Are you afraid?
Afraid and fear
Be afraid is more common than fear in an informal style.
- Don’t be afraid. (NOT Don’t fear.)
- There is nothing to be afraid of.
- I was afraid of hurting his feelings.
Afraid of and afraid to
- I was afraid of offending his feelings. (because I had no wish to do so)
- I was afraid to offend him. (because he might hit me)
I’m afraid = I’m sorry
I’m afraid is a polite way of giving information that will not be welcome.
- I’m afraid that I can’t help you. (= I am sorry to tell you that I can’t help you.)
- I’m afraid your wife has been taken ill. (= I am sorry to tell you that your wife has been taken ill.)
- I can’t meet you. I’m afraid.
Not used before a noun
Afraid is one of the adjectives that cannot be used before a noun in the attributive position. It is used in the predicative position after be and other copular verbs. In attributive position, other words must be used.
- James is afraid.
- James is a frightened man. (NOT James is an afraid man.)
Afraid can be modified by ‘very much’.
I’m very much afraid he’s out. (= I am sorry to tell you that he is out.)