There are at least seven ways to use the adjective 'afraid'!
The most common meaning of 'afraid' is the one I have just used to introduce the topic -when we want to politely tell someone something that may upset, disappoint, annoy or even worry them.
In terms of the grammar, we can say either:
- 'I'm afraid that there are at least seven ways' OR...
- 'I'm afraid there are at least seven ways'.
We usually hear this meaning of 'afraid' in spoken English.
The next most common meaning of 'afraid' is 'to be frightened'.
But remember that 'afraid' can't be used before a noun, so we can't talk about 'an easily afraid person'. That's not right.
Instead, try these:
- 'He's an easily frightened person' or even simpler, 'He's easily frightened.'
- 'He's afraid of something: He's afraid of spiders.
- 'He's afraid to do something: He's afraid to ask for help.
- 'He's afraid of doing something: He's afraid of flying.
So lots of examples there!
Less common uses of the adjective 'afraid' are used as a way of saying either 'yes' and 'no'.
- Afraid' + not... is used to mean 'no'
- Afraid' + so... is used to mean 'yes'.
A: Are you doing anything nice this weekend, Femi?
F: I'm afraid not, I have to work - I need the money!
Or when someone calls and the person they want to speak to isn't there:
A: Could I speak to Sun Chen please?
B: I'm afraid not, he's not available at the moment. Would you like to leave a message?
Next, 'afraid' meaning 'yes':
A: Are you leaving now, Yvonne?
Y: I'm afraid so, I have to be home by 9 o'clock.
So let's sum up. We can use the word 'afraid' in the following ways:
- First, to politely tell someone something that may disappoint them.
- Second, to simply mean: 'frightened'.
- And third, to mean 'yes' when we say 'I'm afraid so' –
- and 'no' when we say 'I'm afraid not'.