- In some cases, afraid and scared are interchangeable.
- Afraid has meanings that scared does not share.
- The grammar of scared and afraid can be different in certain constructions.
Are you afraid or are you scared? Is there a difference between the two adjectives? Learn how to accurately describe your level of terror in this article!
How are scared and afraid similar?
You probably know that both scared and afraid deal with fear. In fact, that’s why they are so easily confused. Let’s start with the definition of afraid that’s closest to the definition of scared. Afraid means feeling fear or apprehension. Scared means being in a state of fear, nervousness, or panic. If you think they sound pretty much the same, you are not alone. But plenty of people point out the distinctions.
How are scared and afraid different?
First, feeling fear is only one definition of afraid. Being afraid might also mean feeling regret or reluctance. Scared would give a different nuance to following two sentences.
Another unique usage of afraid is to confirm bad news.
The grammar of afraid and scared also differs. The preposition by often follows scared. However, afraid by doesn’t make any sense.
The position of afraid is also more limited than that of scared. It sounds most natural when it appears after the noun it’s describing.
Afraid and scared examples in literature
Synonyms of scared and afraid
There are lots of other words that express varying levels of fear. Here are some alternatives to scared and afraid. (Remember, they don’t express the other meanings of afraid, just the one pertaining to fear.)
- Frightened means afraid or fearful.
- Terrified means to be extremely afraid.
- Spooked means to be startled, sometimes with the result of running or stampeding in the case of animals.
Are you feeling fearful? You don’t have to be afraid or scared about which adjective you choose to describe the feeling. You can use afraid or scared if you pay attention to the grammar. And if you want to confirm bad news or express feelings of regret or reluctance, afraid is the right word. Isn’t this pair a little less scary now?