Difference Between Scared and Afraid

Key Difference: People get easily confused with these two words Scared and Afraid,which are adjectives and both express the same degree of fear. The primary difference is Scared can be used for both, before a noun and predicative after a verb, while Afraid is generally not used before a noun, but rather followed by a verb.

Scared​​As both the words are adjectives and in some cases are even interchangeable, but afraid has a different meaning which is not the same meaning for scared. The confusion with both these words come as both afraid and scared deal  with fear.

Thus, Afraid here means having a feeling of fear or apprehension while Scared means being in a state of fright, suddenly alarmed or panicking.

Afraid is used as a synonym of Scared and sometimes vice versa, but using scared always instead of afraid is incorrect. Afraid is also used to be polite to share some bad news, regret or apology and is also used to formally decline something like for example, I am afraid, I will not be able to enjoy the party this weekend. The grammar for scared and afraid also differs with use of 'by' as preposition that often follows scared, however using afraid in the same sense does not make any sense, like for example, The small kid was scared by the insect, whereas you cannot be afraid by something or things.

Afraid makes more sense when it is used after describing the noun, for example;

  • The scared kids were hiding in the house.

  • The kids hiding in the house were afraid.

Though both the words can be followed using 'of' and 'ing' form.

  • They were scared of/ afraid of jumping to 10ft swimming pool.

Both the words can be followed by a to+infinitive like:

  • He was too scared to scream.

  • I am not afraid to tell the truth.

Position of afraid is followed by a verb and not generally used before a noun like:

  • She is afraid of him. (But she is not an afraid woman.)

AfraidSynonyms of both the words express fear as a emotion but at varying levels like:

  • Scared is similar to frightened or terrified and expresses how people feel like I felt scared when the elevator stopped.

  • Frightened means afraid or fearful.

  • Terrified means to be extremely scared or be afraid.

  • Spooked means to be startled or be suddenly alarmed like being scared.

Scared is generally a definitive with a known source to be scared of like, I was scared of the spider, while afraid has an element of doubt like, I am afraid of venturing in this business. When using words to describe someone's emotional state-after the verb 'to be' and before 'of', both the words can be used but when used in active voice and the subject of the sentence is something scary use only scared or may be its synonym frightened like, It was the most scary experience of my life.( scary is the adjective relating to things or situations.) Both the words are debatable whether can be used for certain sentences correct or whether it is a formal or informal use, some also say afraid is also used for situations with a longer duration rather than using the word scared and is also less formal.

Comparison between Scared and Afraid:





Is defined as:

  • To be alarmed, frightened, terrified or filled with fear.

  • A time or condition of alarm or worry.

  • A sudden alarm or fright, especially with little or no reason.

Is defined as:

  • Feeling fear or filled with apprehension (anxiety).

  • Feeling regret or unhappiness.

  • Feeling reluctance, unwilling, distaste or dislike.


Used in both situations that is before a noun as well as after a verb.

Not normally used before a noun but instead followed by a verb.

Related Terms

Anxious, panic, petrified, shaken.

Nervous, worry, hesitant, unhappy.


Terrified, Frightened, startle, intimidate.

Scared,fearful,timid, apprehensive.


Can use 'by' as a form of preposition like for example, She was scared by the dog.

Does not make sense using 'by' after afraid like for example, She was afraid by the dog, sounds grammatically incorrect.

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