Di cosa hai paura? (What are you afraid of?) – Has anyone ever asked you this question?
I have to confess that I hesitate quite a lot before answering. This is a really tough question, especially if you have to reply in a foreign language. Let’s see then how to say I’m afraid in Italian.
Why is this question tough?
This is, indeed, an intimate question. Talking about our fears is one of the hardest things to do. It doesn’t matter if they feel like tiny fears. We can be afraid i ragni (spiders) and still feel ashamed to reveal that. It happens to me when I say that I’m afraid of il buio (the dark).
The task becomes even more difficult when you have to do it in Italian.
Apart from the emotional side, when you have to asnwer a question like this in another language you have to stop and think about the language side. In other words, how can you give voice to your feelings? What are the right words to use?
Building the answer
To say that you’re afraid, you have to use the phrase “ho paura”, which literally means “I have fear“.
“ho” comes from avere (to have)
“paura” is the Italian word for fear.
Then, when you want to say that you’re afraid of something, first of all you need to stop thinking:
am I afraid of doing or receiving something or am I afraid of an animal, a person, an abstract thing…?
To put it into more grammatical terms, what do you need after “ho paura”? A verb or a noun?
HO PAURA DI…
HOW TO SAY I’M AFRAID IN ITALIAN
This difference matters a lot and, if you have a look at these examples, you will see why.
Ho paura di volare.
I’m afraid of flying.
Ho paura di parlare in pubblico.
I’m afraid of speaking in public.
Ho paura di sbagliare.
I’m afraid of making mistakes.
In the examples above, we had a verb after “ho paura”. And between “ho paura” and the verb, we had the preposition “di”.
So, when you’re afraid of something which is an action, it doesn’t matter if it’s done by you or to you, you say:
ho paura + di + verb in its infinitive form
But what happens when you’re afraid of a person, an animal, an abstract thing… What happens a noun is scaring you? 😉
First of all, you have to be familiar with the Italian definite articles. You will need them to build your sentence. Then, you need to permorm a bif of magic and combine the preposition “di” with the definite articles.
“Di” is called a simple preposition, but when it’s combined with definite articles, it creates what we call articulated (or compund) prepositions.
These examples will show you how to form these compound prepositions and have more than one answer to the question “di cosa hai paura?” (what are you afraid of?)
HO PAURA DEL BUIO.
I’m afraid of the dark
Since we use the article il with “buio”, we need to combine di with il.
di + il = DEL
This is whay we say “ho paura del buio“.
HO PAURA DELLO ZIO MARCO.
I’m afraid of uncle Marco.
With “zio”, we use the article lo. Therefore, we need to combine di with lo.
di + lo = DELLO
This is why we say “ho paura dello zio Marco“.
HO PAURA DELL’ALTEZZA.
With the word “altezza”, we use the article l’. So, in this case, we need to combine di with l’.
di + l’ = DELL’
And that is why we say “ho paura dell’altezza“.
HO PAURA DELLA MORTE.
I’m afraid of death.
With “morte” with use the article la. Let’s then combine di and la.
di + la = DELLA
This is the reason why we say “ho paura della morte“.
HO PAURA DEI RAGNI.
I’m afraid of spiders.
With the plural word “ragni”, we use the article i. We combine di and i and we have…
di + i = DEI
And that’s why we say “ho paura dei ragni”.
HO PAURA DEGLI SPAZI CHIUSI.
I’m afraid of closed spaces.
With the word “spazi”, we use the article gli, because “spazi” begins with s + a consonant. So, we combine di and gli and we have…
di + gli = DEGLI
Therefore, we say “ho paura degli spazi chiusi“.
HO PAURA DELLE API.
I’m afraid of bees.
With the word “api”, we use the plural article le. We then combine di and le and we have:
di + le = DELLE
So, we say “ho paura delle api“.
And you? Can you tell me di cosa hai paura? Think of what could be your possible answer. Is it a verb or a noun? Which preposition would you use? How would you asnwer a question like that?
When you engage yourself in activities like this, even if you do it on your own, you begin to build memories. Thanks to these memories, you can remember new words and grammar rules in a shorter period of time and by saving a great amount of energy.
By making a habit out of it, you will see how easy and fun it is to learn and remember more and more bits of Italian. Your mental health with thank you for that, and your Italian will come to life.
DO YOU WANT TO GET OUT OF THE BEGINNER STAGE AND FINALLY BE ABLE TO SPEAK ITALIAN?
Tired of feeling stuck in the beginner phase when speaking Italian? Would you like to finally express yourself without doubting every single thing that you say? Here you have my FREE course Unlock your Italian which I prepared especially to help you strengthen what you already know and boost your listening and speaking skills, so that you can feel confident when speaking Italian in public. Click on the button below and get the course.