To Fear vs. To Be Afraid: What’s the Difference? (Examples)

What is the correct way to express your feelings of concern and anxiety? Do you use the expression “To Fear” or “To Be Afraid”?

We want to take a look at both expressions to understand their differences and find out the correct way to use them.

To Fear vs. To Be Afraid – What’s the Difference?

We all know that “To Fear” and “To Be Afraid” are correct expressions we can use. However, do they mean exactly the same? In fact, there are some small differences. “To Be Afraid” usually indicates an imminent danger, while “To Fear” tends to relate to general concerns a person has.

To Fear vs. To Be Afraid Of

Let’s take a look at some examples:

  • I am afraid of spiders.
  • I fear spiders.
  • I know the woods, so I don’t fear getting lost.
  • I know the woods, so I’m not afraid of getting lost.

In many cases, “To Fear” and “To Be Afraid” can interchange. However, there’s always a tone that comes with a sentence’s construction, and that should be taken into consideration when using one or the other.

In the first set of sentences, for example, it’d sound much more natural to say “I’m afraid of spiders”, indicating a constant discomfort when spiders are around. To say “I fear spiders” doesn’t seem to have the same impact.

Same happens on the second set. The statement “I don’t fear getting lost” sounds more like a lack of concern than a frightening situation. And that would make more sense in an area you’re familiar with.

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To Fear

“To Fear” is to worry that a particular thing might happen. It’s an unpleasant emotion that makes a person frightened that a bad thing, dangerous or painful, might happen.

That’s the definition we find in The Cambridge Dictionary, always very much connected with the idea of being frightened about something.

Let’s look at some examples:

  1. I have a fear of heights.
  2. I fear that Mark won’t be able to make it today.
  3. John has an intense fear of snakes.
  4. She had a fear of birds, which she eventually got over.
  5. I fear that the doctor isn’t in the clinic today.

“To Fear” indicates a state of concern, or anxiety, around the issue that’s causing the fear.

However, “To Fear” can also be used as a polite way to give someone what might be considered bad news, like in sentence 5 – in which someone was looking for a doctor, who might not show up today.

To be Afraid

“To Be Afraid” is to have the feeling of fear, the sense that you’re worried about the outcome of a certain situation. It’s the opposite of having a good expectation.

The Cambridge Dictionary also adds a sense of regret to the definition, which comes up when it looks like the outcome won’t be what we’d have wished it to be.

Here are some examples that might be helpful:

  1. I’m afraid that I’ll have to turn in my assignment late.
  2. Richard is very afraid of dogs.
  3. Melissa is afraid of what might happen.
  4. We were very afraid of getting lost, because we didn’t know the cit.
  5. Luke was the only one in the group not afraid of snakes.

“To Fear” and “To Be Afraid” can often interchange, as long as you make the grammatical adjustments needed for the sentences to be correct.

Which Is Used the Most?

Which of those words is used more often: “Fear” or “Afraid”? We’ll find the answer to this question on the graph from Google Ngram Viewer below.

fear vs afraid usage

“Fear” seems to be used with much more frequency than “Afraid”, and has always been. What’s interesting to see, though, is that in the early 2000’s, the use of both forms has grown considerably.

We wonder if that’s because people have become more open to share their feelings, including the feelings of “Fear”.

Final Thoughts

“To Fear” and “To Be Afraid” have basically the same meaning, and relate to a bad feeling of concern and anxiety relating to the outcome of a situation. No one likes to be “Afraid” or with “Fear”. Choose the form you are more comfortable with, when expressing your own feelings.