Which one should I choose between them?

We walked quietly ____ fear of being discovered.

a. in

b. for

Here are some examples from Longman Dictionary.Could you please explain the difference between them in terms of meaning and usage because I cannot discern.

Thousands of people are in fear of their lives following the shootings.

Ordinary people lived in fear of being arrested by the secret police.

She finally ran away for fear that he would kill her.

He got to the station early, for fear of missing her

  • Also "out of" can be used in the last two examples.
    – user3169
    Mar 19, 2016 at 19:06

2 Answers 2


Both prepositions can be used, they have different meanings.

“We walked quietly, in fear of being discovered” (comma optional, but I'd tend to put it in) means that the actions of walking and fearing happen at the same time, no more.

“We walked quietly for fear of being discovered” (comma optional, but I'd tend to leave it out) mean that the fear is the cause of the action “walked quietly”. We would not be walking quietly if we did not fear discovery.

“We walked quietly out of fear of being discovered” (mentioned by user3169) is synonymous to “for fear”.

The distinction is visible in the Longman examples that you cite. In the first two examples, people are or live in fear; they would exist and live even if it wasn't for the fear. In the last two examples, the fear is the reason for running away or getting to the station early.


In simple words, you use the phrase 'in fear of' when you feel afraid that something dangerous or undesirable might happen.

However, you usually use the phrase 'for fear of/that' to mean to avoid happening or so as not to cause to happen something dangerous or undesirable.

In light of these meanings, the use of both phrases in the sentences presented by the OP is quite clear. For example, the use of 'for fear of" in the following sentence is appropriate

We walked quietly for fear of being discovered = We walked quietly to avoid being discovered/so as not to be discovered.

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