craindre / avoir peur / effrayer / anxieux / inquiet


New Member
Canada, English
There are a bunch of words representing fear or anxiety; I'm wondering about suggestions about how they compare and contrast with each other.

  • davidg9218

    New Member
    Canada, English
    Sounds like craindre and "avoir peur" are pretty much synonymous. Is one used more commonly? Also I guess "effraye' " (frightened) is almost exactly the same too.

    The bubbling French frog

    New Member
    Orléans, France, French
    I'm French so I can help you : we say craindre quelque chose
    or avoir peur DE quelque chose
    It has the same meaning, but craindre is more formal.

    Effrayer quelqu'un means "lui faire peur", to frighten someone.
    être anxieux means to be anxious
    être effrayé means to be frightened, it is not really used in oral speaking, or you use it for animals ! , but you can use it in writing
    être inquiet means to be anxious (it is not exactly the same)

    You also have :
    être pétrifié (petrified) = être tétanisé (very strong !)

    When you are anxious "vous stressez (noun = stress), vous avez le trac (before acting a play for ex.)"

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    witold bayer-quest

    France - French / English (US Native)
    It really depends on context. You can't just give a correspondance word for word that'll always work. "Avoir peur" is more colloquial and hence more commonly used than "craindre", but again it depends on context. "J'ai peur de lui", "j'ai peur du noir", "j'ai peur de la mort", but

    "je crains de ne pas avoir le temps de terminer", "je crains / j'ai peur de ne pas y arriver". All are possible, and depending on context they could be translated in English by "I fear", "I am afraid".

    "être effrayé" implies an action on the frightened person. "Je suis effrayé par l'ampleur de la tâche". But "tu m'as fait peur" and "tu m'as effrayé" are pretty similar. The former is more colloquial.

    And you forgot "redouter" ! "Je redoute cette épreuve" would be slightly stronger than "je crains" or "j'ai peur de".

    It is very difficult to give all the possible meanings of words expressing anxiety or worry, and the differences between them. Context is needed!

    Good luck!

    witold bayer-quest

    France - French / English (US Native)
    While I'm at it, let me add this

    Je suis inquiet is commonly used : "je suis inquiet parce qu'il n'a pas donné de nouvelles" (I am worried)

    sometimes "je m'inquiète" would be more proper : "je m'inquiète de son absence", "je m'inquiète de ton avenir"

    or : "j'ai des inquiétudes" : "j'ai des inquiétudes au sujet de l'avenir"

    "Je suis anxieux" is not so commonly used, as it depicts a general and lasting psychological condition : something like "I am in a state of anxiety" or "I am suffering anxiety".

    A phrase like "I am anxious to meet your needs" would better be translated by : "j'espère de tout coeur répondre à vos besoins" or "je m'efforce de répondre à vos besoins", "je fais tout mon possible pour répondre à vos besoins".

    but you can say : "je suis angoissé à l'idée (de passer plusieurs jours chez ma belle-mère)" : the idea of spending a few days at my mother-in-laws fills me with anxiety. In general, "ça m'angoisse (de faire quelque chose)" can be translated by "(doing something) fills me with anxiety"

    A common colloquial expression is "quelle angoisse!", which you could render by "how stressing!" or simply "what a drag!".

    "Ma belle-mère vient passer trois jours chez nous. Quelle angoisse!"

    Hope this helps (you and your mother-in-law)


    New Member
    Canada, English
    thanks again, this is just the sort of information that helps me go beyond the stuff I can find in a dictionary. I love to know the details of how words are really chosen and used!


    Senior Member
    I was wondering if saying,
    I am anxious or he is anxious,
    is equal and as common as in the US in France, or if another adjective is used more often like
    1. tendu
    2. inquiet etc.

    Thanks in advance
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