I think there's a nuance between scared and afraid, especially with "I'm not". Ngram Viewer shows that the "not afraid" is used much more that "not scared".

It could be because afraid is more literary and sounds better in books, and Ngram searches books. But I think that:

I'm not scared refers to something specific, scary right now or that has just happened.

I'm not afraid refers to what is coming, what could be scary ahead.

Am I correct?

As I excepted, there are quite a lot of questions about "afraid" vs "scared", but unfortunately most of them are unanswered and none answer my question.

  • 1
    I have always used scared and afraid to mean the same thing. Commented Dec 10, 2018 at 17:11
  • Your intuition is sound. We prefer "scared" for specific instances of scaring (e.g. a monster appears) and "afraid" for general attitudes toward the future (e.g. someone receives a disturbing diagnosis). But neither is barred in the reverse case. Also, "scared" is faintly associated with children's speech or other admissions of vulnerability, whereas "afraid" has no such association, perhaps because of expressions like the very mild "I'm afraid" (="I regret / It's unfortunate"). Commented Aug 2, 2019 at 15:52
  • Ordered from most childlike/vulnerable to most adult/matter-of-fact, you would say: I'm scared of heights; I'm afraid of heights; I have a fear of heights. Commented Aug 2, 2019 at 15:56

1 Answer 1


Scared and afraid mean the same thing - "feeling fear or worry". I was afraid/scared when my uncle picked up the hammer and advanced on me. I am afraid of flying. I am scared of heights. Afraid is more formal.


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