How to Express Fear in Spanish

Using 'Temer' and 'Tener Miedo'

montaña rusa
No temo a la montaña rusa en Barcelona. (I'm not afraid of the roller coaster in Barcelona.). Photo by Circula Seguro; licensed via Creative Commons.

The two most common ways of saying "to fear" or "to be afraid" in Spanish are the verb temer and the phrase tener miedo. Note, however, that this verb and verb phrase aren't used in exactly the same way as their English equivalents.

Phrases for Expressing Fear

Temer is typically followed by:

  • The preposition a and a noun. (No temo a las películas de terror. I am not afraid of horror movies.) Sometimes the verb is preceded by a redundant indirect object pronoun. (No le tememos a nadie. We're not afraid of anybody.)
  • The preposition por. (Teme por la seguridad de los detenidos en Cuba. He fears for the safety of the prisoners in Cuba.)
  • The subordinate conjunction que. (Temen que el caos se extienda a los territorios ocupados. They are afraid that the chaos will extend to the occupied territories.) Note that, as in the example, the clause following temer que is usually in the subjunctive mood. (Temerse has a much milder meaning than "to fear" and frequently is followed by verb in the indicative mood. (Me temo que va a nevar. I am concerned it is going to snow.)
  • An infinitive. (Temen salir de la rutina. They are afraid to quit their routine.)

Tener miedo is typically followed by:

  • The preposition a. (Sólo tengo miedo a una cosa. I am afraid of just one thing.)
  • The preposition de. (Todos buscamos éxito y tenemos miedo del fracaso. We are all looking for success and we are all afraid of failure.)
  • The preposition por. (Fresita tiene miedo por lo que opinará su madre. Fresita fears for what her mother will say.)
  • The conjunction que or phrase de que, usually followed by a clause in the subjunctive mood. (Tiene miedo que su hermana muera. He is afraid that his sister is dying. Tengo miedo de que aparezca otra chica en tu vida. I'm afraid another girl will appear in your life.)

Phrases that can be used in a way similar to tener miedo are tener aprensión, tener temor and, less commonly, tener susto.

In Spanish it is also common to express the idea of being a recipient of fear. (Me da susto las arañas. I am deathly afraid of spiders. ¿Te metió miedo la clase? Did the class scare you?)

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Erichsen, Gerald. "How to Express Fear in Spanish." ThoughtCo, May. 24, 2017, thoughtco.com/express-fear-in-spanish-3079616. Erichsen, Gerald. (2017, May 24). How to Express Fear in Spanish. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/express-fear-in-spanish-3079616 Erichsen, Gerald. "How to Express Fear in Spanish." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/express-fear-in-spanish-3079616 (accessed May 26, 2018).