Fear English

Fear English

“Fears are nothing more than a state of mind.”

Napoleon Hill, an American self-help author

Halloween is just around the corner. Isn’t it the right time to talk about what we are afraid of? Read on to know how to talk about fears in English, learn a few alternatives to “scared”, and find inspiration to face your fears.

How I conquered my fear of flying

My fear of flying is not just a mild case, but a real, oh-my-God-I’m-going-to-die-any-second kind of fear, which is unfortunate, because as a foreign journalist I can’t exactly stay at home. My job has taken me to dangerous places such as Afghanistan and Iraq, but I’m far more worried about flying planes than by flying bullets. After an awful flight earlier this year on a small plane, I decided I would either have to stop flying altogether or I could try to overcome my fears. Which is why, a few weeks later, I agreed to take the flight to end all fears.

The plane was going almost vertically upwards before moving sharply to the left. To make matters worse, my seat was shaking violently because of severe turbulence. My stomach was turning. The captain, sensing my fear, took his hands off the controls and turned to face me, “You see how safe it is,” he smiled. In fact, Captain John Walsh had designed the flight, or rather the terrifying realistic flight simulator, to my needs.

In the two years Virtual Aviation have been running the course at Heathrow, they had never put the plane through such extreme flying before. Apparently, they thought that was what would work best for me. And they were right. By showing me just how far you can push a plane, and still keep it safely within its limits, they allayed my fears. I had to experience things for myself before I was able to convince myself of the truth. That planes, generally speaking, do not fall out of the sky like rotten apples.

In their careful pre-flight questioning with a therapist called Mary, they focused on what lay beneath my fear. Like many fearful fliers, I often experienced a heightened sense of hearing, noticing small changes in noises, and amplifying them dramatically in my mind. Something moving in an overhead locker could sound to me like an engine about to fall out. But Mary focused on my heightened sense of movement as my main problem, which is why during the flight the captain flipped the plane over like a pancake.

It was an experience I would rather not go through again. But by facing my worst fear, I’d overcome it. And fellow sufferers will be glad to know that I got through my next real flight safe and sound.

  • To conquer /ˈkɒŋkə(r)a fear = to overcome (overcame; overcome) a fear = to end a fear
  • To make matters worse – to make the situation even worse
  • My stomach was turning – I felt as if I was going to throw up
  • To allay /əˈleɪone’s fears – to come one down, to stop them from being afraid
  • Something lies (lay; lain) beneath your fear – something causes your fear, there is a reason for your fear
  • To amplify – to make sounds louder
  • To flip something over – to turn something upside down
  • To go through something – to experience something difficult/unpleasant
  • Safe and sound – unharmed


  1. Spooked (mainly American English): I was spooked by a sudden gust of wind.  
  2. Creeped out (mainly American English): I felt creeped out being in the park at night. That man gives me the creeps
  3. PetrifiedMost people seem to be petrified of sharks.
  4. Quaking/shaking in one’s boots/shoes: Stop quaking in your boots! I’m not going to hurt you. 
  5. Shaking like a leaf: I was shaking like a leaf seeing him coming closer. 
  6. ApprehensivePeople are still terribly apprehensive about the future (= they are afraid that something bad may happen).
  7. Alarmed: The government was alarmed by an outbreak of unrest. You shouldn’t be alarmed at the press report. 
  8. Blanching /blɑːntʃwith fearAll of my friends ran into the creepy haunted house, but I blanched with fear when I saw it (= I became pale with fear).
  9. In fear and trembling: In fear and trembling, I switched on the light (= with dread).
  10. In fear of one’s life: I’ve been in fear of my life since I received that message (=I’ve been afraid I may be killed).
Don’t be afraid! To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom! (B.Russel) Happy Halloween!

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