I'm Afraid (idiom)

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I'm afraid so
I'm afraid not

Meaning Of Idiom 'I'm Afraid'

Although 'I'm afraid' literally means I am frightened or scared, when used idiomatically it means I'm sorry or I regret. 1


I'm afraid is used as a polite way of expressing regret when informing someone about something bad that has happened or will happen, or for having to refuse someone.


"I'm afraid I'm going to have to take a rain check on dinner. I have to work overtime."

"Mrs. Robinson," said the policeman, "I'm afraid your son's been in an accident. Don't worry, he's fine, but you'll have to come to the hospital immediately."

"Ted, you've been a valuable employee but I'm afraid I'm going to have to let you go."

"I'm afraid I don't understand what you mean," said Ted.

"Can you help me move into my new apartment tomorrow?" asked Jane. "I'm afraid not," said John, "I'll be out of town."

"Are you telling me my dog is going to die?" Tom asked. "I'm afraid so," said the veterinarian.


Used since at least the first half of the 1800's.

1. Manser, Martin H. The Wordsworth Dictionary of Idioms. Wordsworth Editions Limited, 2006.

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