Can the adjective afraid be modified by very, or it should be very much instead?

This site "English Grammar" say that 'Afraid' can be modified by ‘very much’. And it doesn't say anything about 'very afraid'. There is a question here on the 'English Stack Exchange' under the title "Differences between “very” and “very much” as adjective modifiers", in which the OP endorses the sentence "I am very much afraid that..." as fine, and he states that the sentence "I am very aware of..." as awkward. But unfortunately, no specific answer has been given there.

My question: Is 'very afraid' a correct usage? Or, Should it be 'very much' afraid?


"Some adjectives beginning with a- are used mainly after link verbs, especially be. Common examples: afloat, afraid, alight, alike, alive, alone, asleep, awake, etc". These adjectives cannot normally be used attributively.

If I say such adjectives cannot be modified by "very"; instead, we have to use "very much", am I correct?

  • 1
    There is the well known phrase "Be afraid, be very afraid" from the 1986 film The Fly. – Weather Vane Nov 17 '18 at 19:08
  • @WeatherVane, yes. I'm aware of it. Is it an adequate evidence for this usage? – mahmud k pukayoor Nov 17 '18 at 19:16
  • 1
    It is perfectly good to use "very afraid", possibly better than "very much afraid". Consider another adjective: "tired". Saying "I am very much tired" is clumsy. "Very much afraid" is often used in a metaphoric context such as "I am very much afraid that (some bad news)" where the speaker is not actually afraid. – Weather Vane Nov 17 '18 at 19:18
  • Tired can be an attributive adjective, can't it? – mahmud k pukayoor Nov 17 '18 at 19:22

'Very much afraid' is formal and somewhat archaic. Kind of Dickensian. You might use it to create a dramatic effect or to emphasise gravity. A lawyer might use it - 'your grandfather has passed away but having perused the will with due diligence I am very much afraid there is no inheritance'. Jacob Rees-Mogg would use it for sure. Be very afraid... ;)

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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