Afraid + future / present

gabriel001234

Senior Member
Portuguese
Person 1: "What are you afraid of"?
Person 2: "I'm afraid this situation gets worse/will get worse. Everything is out of control. We need help."

Question 1: What is the difference between using "gets worse" and "will get worse"?

Question 2: If I say "I'm afraid I'll be single forever", am I saying that I think I'll be single forever?
 
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  • Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    Question 1:
    Both 'gets worse' and 'will get worse' are used when a situation is already bad.
    'Gets worse' means it is getting worse now or got worse in the recent past ('It gets worse' is a common interjection on receiving bad news in a situation that is already bad; the present tense is used even though the news just received is of something that has already happened). 'Gets worse' does not necessarily mean things will continue getting worse in the future.
    'Will get worse' says nothing about any recent or current deterioration in the situation, only that it will get worse in the future.

    If the situation is getting worse now and you expect it to continue to get worse in the future, you can use either the present or future tense.

    Question 2: Yes, but not with any degree of certainty, just that it is a possibility or a worry.

    Do you realise that Person 1 and Person 2's uses of 'afraid' are different, and that Person 2 is not answering Person 1's question?
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    In my view only “will get worse” works in that sentence.

    And I’m afraid I disagree :) that in this scenario Person 2 means “afraid” differently from Person 1.
     

    gabriel001234

    Senior Member
    Portuguese
    Question 1:
    Both 'gets worse' and 'will get worse' are used when a situation is already bad.
    'Gets worse' means it is getting worse now or got worse in the recent past ('It gets worse' is a common interjection on receiving bad news in a situation that is already bad; the present tense is used even though the news just received is of something that has already happened). 'Gets worse' does not necessarily mean things will continue getting worse in the future.
    'Will get worse' says nothing about any recent or current deterioration in the situation, only that it will get worse in the future.

    If the situation is getting worse now and you expect it to continue to get worse in the future, you can use either the present or future tense.

    Question 2: Yes, but not with any degree of certainty, just that it is a possibility or a worry.

    Do you realise that Person 1 and Person 2's uses of 'afraid' are different, and that Person 2 is not answering Person 1's question?
    So what is the difference between those two uses of afraid?
     
    'afraid' plus present tense clause take a special context. So 'will' is usual, implying future worsening.

    Here is an example of the first case.*

    I'm talking to my babysitter over the phone. She says, "Your kid threw up."
    "Is he ok, now?" I ask.
    "I'm afraid things get worse. He fainted, so I called an ambulance. He's in hospital now."

    It's a kind of false present, used in reporting. (=The report gets worse, but the things have already happened, have gotten worse)

    ---

    I'm leaving aside the question of senses of afraid, e.g. fearing, vs. hesitating to say (for some reason).
    -----

    * My example is consistent with Uncle Jack's remark,

    //'It gets worse' is a common interjection on receiving bad news in a situation that is already bad; the present tense is used even though the news just received is of something that has already happened)//
     
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    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Hence the smiley face. The way I used “afraid” there doesn’t mean I’m frightened, it’s just a slightly apologetic/polite way of disagreeing with someone or giving them bad news. In that context, “afraid” can’t be replaced by “frightened”, but in your dialogue, both instances can.
     

    gabriel001234

    Senior Member
    Portuguese
    Hence the smiley face. The way I used “afraid” there doesn’t mean I’m frightened, it’s just a slightly apologetic/polite way of disagreeing with someone or giving them bad news. In that context, “afraid” can’t be replaced by “frightened”, but in your dialogue, both instances can.
    When someone says "I'm afraid I'll be alone forever", are they saying that they think they will be alone forever?
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Yes. That does mean afraid in the sense of not-so-much frightened (too strong a word) but worried/concerned about it.

    It’s not impossible for it to mean “afraid” in the other sense (I’m sorry to have to tell you, but I’ll be forever alone) – but that is of course highly unlikely.
     

    gabriel001234

    Senior Member
    Portuguese
    Yes. That does mean afraid in the sense of not-so-much frightened (too strong a word) but worried/concerned about it.

    It’s not impossible for it to mean “afraid” in the other sense (I’m sorry to have to tell you, but I’ll be forever alone) – but that is of course highly unlikely.
    So they are worried about "being alone" and they think that it's most likely going to happen to them, right?
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Why do we ever use will? Because it’s a future tense relating to something (which may or may not happen) in the future, which is the case here.
     
    The senses of 'afraid' have been discussed in some older threads, e.g.

    afraid <I won't> <not to> be able...

    be afraid that

    Contrast: a) I'm afraid I'm dying, with b) I'm afraid I will die in tomorrow's holiday traffic.

    The second clearly means "fear". The first is something I don't wish to think or say, roughly,

    "I find it unpalatable to say/think, but in fact I'm dying."

    So as several posters (lingo and aint translation) have said, the present tense very roughly is connected to a special sense of 'afraid.'
     
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    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    What is the difference between Person 1's afraid and Person 2's afraid?
    Person 1 asks what causes person 2 to feel fear. Person 2 then responds with what makes him worried, the same situation as 'I'm afraid I'll be single forever'. The difference is seen in the preposition 'of'. Person 2 might be afraid of the future (which would be a suitable answer to person 1), but would hardly be likely to answer such a direct question with a construction that is more often used merely to express regret.
     

    ain'ttranslationfun?

    Senior Member
    US English
    Re Uncle Jack's #18, to maintain Person1's meaning of "to be afraid of", Person 2 might say "I'm afraid of the situation('s) getting worse..."

    Or "I'm afraid that the situation will get worse..."
     

    gabriel001234

    Senior Member
    Portuguese
    Yes. You wouldn’t be afraid of something happening if you didn’t think (rightly or wrongly) that it was a possibility.
    Ok. Last question. When someone says "I'm afraid I won't be strong", they think that "not being strong" is something that can possibly happen and then they become worried about it, right?
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Yes, pretty much. Although “I’m afraid I won’t be strong enough [to do something specific]” would make more sense. Afraid means you’re worried about it, but not to the extent that you could paraphrase it as being scared or frightened. Quite simply, there are many degrees of being afraid.
     

    gabriel001234

    Senior Member
    Portuguese
    Yes, pretty much. Although “I’m afraid I won’t be strong enough [to do something specific]” would make more sense. Afraid means you’re worried about it, but not to the extent that you could paraphrase it as being scared or frightened. Quite simply, there are many degrees of being afraid.
    Even though someone may be worried about not being strong enough, they can overcome it, right? That's why it's only a possibility, right?
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    "I'm afraid I won't be strong"

    The context here is minimal, but this person is clearly worried at the prospect of not being strong in the future — in other words, worried about a hypothetical future situation. Whether or not it’s something they could overcome or prevent has nothing to do with the grammar or syntax.

    PROSPECT
    The possibility or likelihood of some future event occurring.

    HYPOTHETICAL
    Supposed but not necessarily real or true.
     
    It's worth noting that the senses of 'afraid' that are NOT connected to fear, but to hesitancy, politeness, etc. can and do occur with future forms, including those based on 'will.'

    My teacher is reviewing my grades in his course, prior to the final exam.

    "I'm afraid you will have to get an A+ on the exam to have any hope of getting even a B in the course." Or
    "I'm afraid you will find your final grade quite upsetting."
     
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