to fear vs to be afraid

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mammou

Member
Arabic
Hello,
I want to know what is the difference between "to fear" and "to be afraid"? Is "to fear " is more intense than "to be afraid"?
Thank you
 
  • PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    Fear is probably the stronger, but, of course, both may be qualified as to intensity and context.
    e.g.
    "I am mortally afraid of the dragon." / I am afraid that the we might miss the bus."
    or
    I fear that slice of cake will be too much for me." / "Above all he feared the loss of his sight, even death would have been preferable."
     

    Copperknickers

    Senior Member
    Scotland - Scots and English
    The main difference is that 'fear' is more formal and archaic. You would say 'I am afraid of snakes', but not 'I fear snakes.'

    You could also say 'I have a fear of snakes' but that refers specifically to a phobia.
     

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    Coppernickers is right. I would go so far as to say that English speakers almost never use "to fear" in everyday conversation, unless it is in set phrases like "I fear the worst" or "where angels fear to tread".
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Hello,
    I want to know what is the difference between "to fear" and "to be afraid"? Is "to fear " is more intense than "to be afraid"?
    Thank you
    For me, the principal difference is that I can say "I am afraid," but if I am going to use "fear" I must specify what I fear.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Coppernickers is right. I would go so far as to say that English speakers almost never use "to fear" in everyday conversation, unless it is in set phrases like "I fear the worst" or "where angels fear to tread".
    For once I don't agree with Keith. I frequently say things like 'I fear I can't come to see you this evening', and I often heard similar things from my friends when I lived in the UK.

    The BNC has plenty of conversational examples, like:
    1295 ‘The player I fear most is myself,’ says Hendry.
    904 ‘But from where I'm standing I fear you're right.

    A clear advantage of using to fear rather than to be afraid of can be that it takes a direct object, which makes the sentence more direct and lively.
     
    Last edited:

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I'm afraid I'm with Copperknickers and Keith here, and (partly) against TT:(.

    I often use "I'm afraid that" to mean "I'm sorry that".

    I seldom use "I fear that" with the same meaning.

    As regards the more general difference: yes, I'd say that "I fear snakes" is stronger/more striking than "I'm afraid of snakes".
     
    Last edited:

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I wasn't saying I don't use I'm afraid that to mean I'm sorry that. I was saying that I thought that Keith's statement that BE speakers 'almost never' use to fear in everyday conversation was a bit strong.
     
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