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Which sentences sound idiomatic to the Americans:

  • I am a big Elvis fan.

  • I am a big Elvis admirer.

  • I am a big Obama fan.

  • I am a big Obama admirer.

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American here. "Fan" sounds more idiomatic to me, but both are common.

In informal situations, I think "fan" is almost always used. "Admirer" is a bit more formal—I would be more inclined to write rather than say it.

There's also the idiomatic phrase "secret admirer" which is commonly used among children to refer to a person with a secret attraction to someone.

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  • But as far as I know, You can be a sport’s fan OR somebody's fan (somebody who is famous such as: Elvis Presley; but not for example a politician! E.g. J.F. Kennedy). Do you confirm it? – A-friend Dec 23 '14 at 21:21
  • @A-friend - It's okay to use fan for political figures, too. Sometimes it indicates a liking for the person, or it may indicate support for that politician's agenda or policies: He was a big Reagan fan. – J.R. Dec 23 '14 at 22:12
  • How about if I remove 'a big'? Then do the sentences make sense and will they be natural again? – A-friend Dec 23 '14 at 22:20
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    @A-friend yes, A Reagan fan sounds natural. – user428517 Jan 5 '17 at 22:25
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It might be helpful to know that "fan" is derived from "fanatic", meaning someone who is interested to the point of obsession. Sports fans are a great example of this kind of enthusiasm, willing to make great personal sacrifices to support their team. Popular works of fiction like Harry Potter or Star Wars also have very devoted fans.

There is an implication of (at least) mild irrationality when describing someone as a fan. Performers and public figures will often express gratitude to their fans, saying "I'll do anything for a fan!" or "This is for the fans, you make all of this possible!" Some fans are more casual, but all consider themselves more invested than a typical person should be.

Conversely, an "Admirer" is generally very reserved in their admiration. An admirer is not going to dress up in a costume and stand in freezing weather to support their team - a fan might.

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  • … which brings us neatly to 'stalker' ;) – gone fishin' again. Dec 23 '14 at 21:17
  • Nothing you say here is inaccurate, but it might be worth mentioning that "fan" doesn't always conjure images of irrational behavior or fanatical enthusiasm. I can say something like, "I'm a big classical music fan," without anyone thinking that I listen for 10 hours a day, or don my Mozart wig on weekends. The word fan often gets used in the form of "I'm a fan of X," to mean little more than, "I appreciate X." – J.R. Dec 23 '14 at 22:14
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    As a follow on, I was listening to the radio just a few hours after I posted my previous comment. The newscaster, as an introduction to a special story, said, "There are fans, and then there are fans," (meaning, "There are people who enjoy this – and then there are the fanatics"). – J.R. Dec 24 '14 at 1:53
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the existing answers already nail it for me, but I'd add …

'fan' is informal, 'admirer' is formal.

therefore, I would restructure my sentences to lean towards one or the other

Informal

I'm a music fan

Formal

I'm an admirer of Mozart

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