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Three meanings of Afraid

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On Sunday my young daughter asked what afraid means. Good question. I was going to say it means 'scared' until I realised that it has more than one meaning.

Afraid is a useful word for English learners to know because it can be used in a few different ways. Let's take a look.

Afraid as 'scared'

When we are afraid we have a fear of something or are scared.

Are you afraid of dogs?
Yes, I am very afraid of dogs.

Afraid as 'nervous'

We can be afraid when we are worried or nervous about something.

I'm afraid Jack is going to lose his job.

Don't be afraid to tell us what you think.

Afraid as 'sorry'

Afraid can be used as a polite way of saying sorry, giving bad news or disagreeing with someone.

Sorry: I'm afraid you can't take that seat, my wife is sitting there.

Bad News: Because of the bad weather, we will have to cancel the picnic, I'm afraid.

Disagreeing: I'm afraid I don't agree with your opinion.

Before you go, complete these sentences, all of which contain afraid:

  • 1 - I didn't know you were afraid ___ spiders.





  • 2 - I'm afraid ___ you can't smoke in here, sorry.





  • 3 - Donna said she was ___ of flying.




  • 4 - There's no need to ___ afraid, my cat won't scratch you.





  • 5 - I think she is afraid ___ tell you her problem.