As far as I know, anxious can mean both nervous and eager, although I've heard that the second meaning is not that acceptable. When anxious is followed by subjunctive, can it have both meanings? For instance, are the following sentences both correct?

I'm anxious that you meet my friends. I'm anxious that he hurt himself.

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    Imho, the first one would be better as I'm anxious for you to meet my friends, and second would be better with a different verb - I'm worried/concerned that he [might have] hurt himself. Jan 26, 2016 at 15:25
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    You heard wrong. Anxious and eager both mean ‘looking forward to something,’ but they have different connotations. Eager suggests enthusiasm about something, a positive outlook: I’m eager to get started on my vacation. Anxious implies worry about something: I’m anxious to get started before it rains. Oxford.
    – GoDucks
    Jan 26, 2016 at 16:46
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    If you want the subjunctive in the second clause, I'm anxious lest he hurt himself works. See lest definition 1.1 in Oxford, and the accompanying usage note regarding the subjunctive after lest.
    – GoDucks
    Jan 26, 2016 at 16:50
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    @GoDucks How can 'anxious' mean 'looking forward to something' and have negative connotations?
    – V.Lydia
    Jan 26, 2016 at 19:19
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    @V.Lydia It doesn't mean that you are looking forward to something at all. That's not oaccurate. It means that you want something to happen, but until it actually happens you feel nervous about it in case it doesn't happen. So being anxious to do something conveys that you want to do it, but you're a bit worried, not that you feel happy thinking about it. Jan 28, 2016 at 11:40

2 Answers 2


To be anxious means to have anxiety/discomfort.

The subjunctive is followed by certain verbs and to desire is one of them. So when a subjunctive follows anxious it follows a similar pattern and the meaning is "desire strongly to the point of causing one anxiety, discomfort."

Of course the anxiety/discomfort may not actually exist and the expression is used for exaggeration or emphasis.

So it does in a sense combine the meanings of both anxious and desire when used like this.

I'm anxious that you meet my friends.

This sounds fine and the speaker/writer is saying he/she wants you to meet his/her friends very very much.

But, you can also say something like this:

I'm anxious that they will not make it here in time.

This means the possibility of "they will not make it here in time" is making you anxious.


I'm anxious that he hurt himself.

It's unlikely that a reasonable person would be anxious to hurt someone, so probably most people would assume that hurt here is past tense and that you are saying that the possibility of him having hurt himself is making you anxious.


I'm anxious for him to hurt himself.

if you want to express without ambiguity that you just really wish someone would hurt themselves.

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    I'm anxious that you meet my friends could be interpreted as You meet my friends, and it worries me. So I don't agree it "sounds fine".
    – verbose
    Feb 24, 2017 at 3:36
  • No, that meaning would be conveyed by "You meeting my friends makes me anxious."
    – LawrenceC
    Feb 24, 2017 at 4:45
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    "No"?! Anxious usually signals a negative, so I'm anxious that you meet my friends does not unproblematically convey I'm eager for you to meet my friends. The formulation would, in fact, cause me to (1) assume that the meetings were happening and (2) wonder what was so anxiety-provoking about them. Also, in your alternative, I would say Your meeting rather than you meeting, but then I'm pedantic that way.
    – verbose
    Feb 24, 2017 at 5:47
  • It can also mean to want very much. Google's definition says this too.
    – LawrenceC
    Feb 24, 2017 at 12:03

I would not write this: I'm anxious that you meet my friends.

You could write: I am eagerly looking forward to you meeting my friends. Its a "positive anticipation".

This is fine: I'm anxious that he hurt himself.

Anxious (and anxiousness) implies 'worry' and 'concern.

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    No, we would say I'm anxious that he not hurt himself or I'm anxious lest he hurt himself.
    – GoDucks
    Jan 26, 2016 at 16:56
  • Actually, if you start to Google anxious that the first auto-complete suggestion is anxious that I might be pregnant; if you actually run that search, the top associated hits are for women who do not want to be pregnant, rather than those who are desperately hoping that they are. So I'm anxious that I'm pregnant = I'm worried that I might be pregnant and I'm anxious that he hurt himself would, in fact, mean I'm worried that he might be hurt.
    – 1006a
    Dec 24, 2016 at 9:01

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