Correct usage of afraid

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.)