grammatical expression: I’m afraid…

Sometimes when we’re speaking and writing English, negative statements can seem a little rude. This week’s grammatical expression, “I’m afraid” can help in these situations.

We use this expression at the beginning of negative statements to make them sound softer and more polite. For example:

A: Can you come to my party on Saturday night?

B: I’m afraid I can’t. I have other plans that night. Maybe some other time.


A: Is Geoffrey Parker there?

B: I’m afraid he’s not here right now. Can I take a message for him?


A: When will you be able to finish the project?

B: I’m afraid we’re behind schedule, so we won’t finish it until the end of the week.


A: I’m afraid I have some bad news. I got laid off today.

B: Oh no! That’s awful!

The statements which follow “I’m afraid” can either be negative grammatically (contain the word “not”), as in the first two examples, or negative in tone, as in the last two examples.

Please note that the word “afraid” in these cases doesn’t mean that we are scared. In these cases, it is simply used to soften the statement.


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