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I am being threatened by unsavory sorts. I am now living in fear for my life.


I am now living in fear of my life.

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Styx's song Renegade uses it in the correct context: "Oh, Mama, I'm in fear for my life from the long arm of the law." – Adam Musch Apr 13 '12 at 13:51

The prescriptivist's answer is:

Fear of xxx is the emotion you feel when you worry that xxx might cause harm.

Arachnophobia is uncontrollable fear of spiders.

Fear for xxx is the emotion you feel when you worry that xxx might be harmed.

I fear for my family's safety.

It is a common error to say in fear of when you mean in fear for.

The descriptivist's answer:

Lots of people say in fear of my life, so it's probably okay.

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+1 for prescriptivist answer, -1 for descriptivist answer. You're right in that it is possible that many people might say it (though I've never heard the phrase that way, I accept that in some areas it may be common.) I really want to vote you up because your prescriptivist answer is so good, but I think the point is to try to figure out what is correct, not common. I think it's okay just to say that its wrong, and leave it at that. – Beska Apr 13 '12 at 13:04
-1 descriptivist as I've never heard it that way in AmE, and I would take it to mean that one was afraid of the life itself, just as in the prescriptive answer. +1 for recognizing that there is a difference between pre/descriptive and separating the answers. +1 for the prescriptive. So +1. :P – user14070 Apr 13 '12 at 13:52
+1, but I wish I could +3 for the same reason issues Joshua pointed out, but with different polarity on the descriptivist case. I've definitely heard "in fear of my life" (furthermore, prepositions, like most thinks in natural language, do not follow logic -- you can't reliable extrapolate their use in one situation, even a typical one, to their use elsewhere). – Ben Lee Apr 13 '12 at 19:43
"fear of my life" gets 8 hits in the Corpus of Contemporary American English, vs. 19 for "fear for my life", 20 for "afraid for my life", and none for "afraid of my life". – Jason Orendorff Apr 13 '12 at 21:01

I've never heard it in any form other than I fear for

I am being threatened by unsavory sorts. I fear for my life.

I was threatened by unsavory sorts. I now fear for my life.

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+1 for the only way I've ever heard it spoken in AmE. – user14070 Apr 13 '12 at 13:49

A simple "I fear for my life" should do. Or, if you want to remove the "life", then "I am living in fear" (but that's obviously not as strong).

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Both prepositions have always been used - "of" is about three times more common overall, but "for" has been steadily gaining ground for the past century...

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I see no evidence of a US/UK difference, nor do I believe there's any conceivable different nuance of meaning. Personally I'm quite used to both forms so neither seems particularly unusual.

But if I stop and think about it, for is more consistent with related usages - "I fear for my sanity" (not "I fear of my sanity"). I'm afraid not of my life or sanity, but of the prospect of losing them.

"Of" works better if the noun is something I really am afraid of, such as my fear of. flying.

Given that support from related usages, I'd expect for to be the dominant form in a few decades.

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