1

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.

8

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 Oct 19 '13 at 8:53

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