Can I say "I’m afraid yes" to mean "I'm afraid so"?

In these conversations, you are B. Read the information in brackets and then answer with I think so, I hope not etc.

(You’re at a party. You have to leave early.) A: Do you have to leave already?

My answer
B: I’m afraid yes.

The correct answer in the book B: I’m afraid so.

Source English Grammar in Use Intermediate Unit 51.4.6

  • To regretfully answer positively, 'I'm afraid so', to answer negatively, 'I'm afraid not'. Commented May 18, 2022 at 10:25

1 Answer 1



So cannot be replaced by yes in this kind of construction. I think it is best treated as an idiom, because there is some substitution possible, but not freely.


I think so.

I believe so.

I suspect so.

I'm afraid so.

I imagine so.

I fear so.

But not

*I'm certain so.

*I know so.

*I'm delighted so.

*I doubt so.

(The first two are occasionally used as an emphatic reply to a question in this form, eg "Do you really think so?" "I know so!", but they are not used otherwise.)

But I don't think the so can be substituted, and certainly not Yes.

In your originial scenario, you might hear I'm afraid, yes. But this has a different intonation pattern from I'm afraid so (which is why I've written it with a comma).

  • "No" is very judgemental. According to you, anyone can say anything they want, as you don't believe in any rules of grammar.
    – Astralbee
    Commented May 18, 2022 at 12:22
  • No is not in the least judgmental. It is a statement of (what I believe to be) fact, that native English speakers do not and would not, use that expression. Of course, I may be factually wrong. Descriptivists are used to prescriptivists making the ludicrous claim that they "don't believe in any rules of grammar".
    – Colin Fine
    Commented May 18, 2022 at 21:29

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