Does anybody know what 'being' means in the following statement?

I don't like dogs. I am always afraid of being bitten.

Why is being used in this statement? It looks like a passive statement, but if it is, it shouldn't start with the subject, but rather be object + verb + past participle. But here it starts with the subject I. Please advise.

1 Answer 1


Afraid of takes a noun phrase, such as

I am always afraid of snakes

which is often a non-finite clause with a verb in the gerund (-ing form)

I am always afraid of falling

I am always afraid of looking stupid

I am always afraid of walking alone at night.

Here the clause contains a passive verb, so the gerund is formed with the gerund of the auxiliary be:

I am always afraid of being bitten

The main clause is active: I am always afraid of X. It is only the embedded non-finite clause which is passive.

  • Interestingly, "afraid" was 'originally past participle of afray "frighten"', according to the online etymological dictionary, so it was likely a passive originally. Perhaps some diachronic linguist and nincompoop might even suppose it to continue its existence as a defective verb in contemporary English...
    – Merk
    Commented Oct 19, 2013 at 8:53

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.