Afraid, scared, frightened and terrified
These words have very similar meanings and are often used interchangeably.
- The frightful howls scared us. / The frightful howls terrified us.
Afraid is the most general of these terms. It is used to express a vague or general fear. You can be afraid of something trivial. You can also be afraid of really dangerous things.
- She is afraid of the dark.
- I am afraid of thunder and lightning.
- He is afraid for his life.
The expressions scared, terrified and frightened all imply fear. Scared is mainly used in an informal style. It suggests a mild fear that passes quickly.
- The noise scared me.
- Oh, you scared me. I didn’t know you were there.
- He jumped out of the closet and scared me.
Frightened is more formal than scared. It shows a greater degree of fear.
- She was too frightened to cry.
- I was too frightened to move.
Terrified suggests extreme fear.
- The young soldier was terrified by the battle.
- The thunderstorm terrified us.
- The thunder and lightning scared the children.
- That ghost story scared me.
- The scarecrows are for scaring away the birds.
- You frightened the daylights out of me.