Exploring Fear in French: Expressions, Verbs, and Customs

Explore the various expressions and customs related to fear in French, including common nouns, verbs, colloquial phrases, and even Halloween celebrations.

Fear in French

When discussing fear in French, one can find a rich variety of terms and expressions that capture the nuances of this powerful emotion. In this blog post, we will explore the complexity of expressing fear in the French language and culture through an exploration of common nouns associated with different levels and types of fear.

We’ll begin by exploring common nouns associated with different levels and types of fear, such as la peur, l’angoisse, and la terreur. Then we’ll examine how to use “avoir peur de” when talking about specific objects or situations that cause fright.

As we continue our journey through fear in French, you’ll learn about verbs related to fearful emotions like s’inquiéter and trembler. We’ll also discuss colloquial expressions used to describe various degrees of anxiety or dread.

In addition to these phrases, we will investigate the verb “craindre,” its conjugation for different subjects, and examples showcasing its usage. Finally, you will discover some derogatory terms for easily frightened people along with Halloween’s influence on contemporary French culture.

Common Nouns for Fear in French

Feeling scared in French? Pas de probleme. There are several common nouns that express feelings of fear. These include la peur (fear), l’angoisse (anxiety), and la terreur (terror). Understanding these terms will help you better communicate your emotions or discuss spooky stories with native speakers.

La peur:

It’s the general term for fear. Une appréhension douce à une terreur intense peut être exprimée par la notion de “peur”. For example: “J’ai la peur des hauteurs” means “I have a fear of heights.”


It’s anxiety or deep-seated worry. “L’angoisse” is often invoked when discussing mental health issues like anxiety disorders or panic attacks. You might say, “L’angoisse me paralyse souvent en public” which translates to “Anxiety often paralyzes me in public.”

La terreur:

It’s extreme terror usually associated with life-threatening situations or horrifying events like natural disasters, acts of violence, or war crimes. An example sentence could be: “Les victimes ont vecu la terreur pendant l’attaque” meaning “The victims experienced terror during the attack.”

Becoming familiar with these different nouns for fear will not only improve your understanding and communication skills but also enhance your ability to empathize with others who may be experiencing various levels of distress.

If you’re interested in learning more about fear and mental health, check out this article on understanding the psychology of fear or visit a reputable online resource like National Institute of Mental Health’s Anxiety Disorders page.

Expressing Fear in French: Avoir Peur De

To convey fear in French, we use the expression “avoir peur de,” which literally means “to have fear of.” For example, “Elle a peur des araignees” means “She is scared of spiders.” Mastering this phrase allows you to share your fears with others effectively.

Avoir Peur De + Noun/Verb Infinitive

The structure for expressing fear in French is quite simple: avoir (to have) + peur (fear) + de (of) followed by either a noun or verb infinitive. Here are some examples:

  • J’ai peur des serpents – I’m afraid of snakes.
  • Il a peur d’aller chez le dentiste – He’s afraid of going to the dentist.
  • Nous avons peur du noir – We’re afraid of the dark.

More Examples Using Avoir Peur De

In addition to these basic phrases, there are many other ways you can express your fears using “avoir peur de.” Some common situations include:

  • Tu as peur de conduire sur l’autoroute ? – Are you scared of driving on the highway?
  • Elle a peur de regarder les films d’horreur seule – She’s scared of watching horror movies alone.

Don’t let your fear of speaking French hold you back. With “avoir peur de,” you can express your fears and conquer them at the same time.

Don’t just use nouns and phrases to express fear, use verbs like s’inquieter (to worry) and trembler (to shake/tremble) to create more vivid descriptions when sharing scary stories.

S’inquieter – to worry

The reflexive verb s’inquieter means worrying about someone or something. For example:

  • Je m’inquiete pour ma sÃ…“ur. – I’m worried about my sister.
  • Tu t’inquietes trop. – You worry too much.
  • Nous nous inquietons pour l’avenir de notre planete.– We’re worried about our planet’s future.
Feeling scared in French

Trembler – to shake or tremble

The verb trembler specifically refers to shaking or trembling because of fear. Here are some examples:

  • J’ai tellement peur que je tremble comme une feuille.– I’m so scared that I’m shaking like a leaf.
  • Trembler can also describe shivering from cold or excitement.
  • Elle tremblait de peur en regardant le film d’horreur.– She was trembling with fear while watching the horror movie.

Using these verbs in your conversations will make your communication more authentic and engaging. Whether it’s sharing a spooky story or discussing real-life concerns, knowing how to use s’inquieter and trembler will help you better express your fears and worries in French.

Colloquial Expressions for Different Levels of Fear

French has some interesting colloquial expressions to describe different levels and types of fear. Knowing these idiomatic expressions can make your conversations with native speakers more authentic during spooky celebrations.

Être morte-de-peur: scared stiff

This expression means “being dead from fear” and is used when someone is extremely frightened or paralyzed by fear. For example, Elle etait morte-de-peur en voyant le fantome, meaning “She was scared stiff when she saw the ghost.”

Avoir la chair de poule: have goosebumps

Avoir la chair de poule means having goosebumps due to being cold or scared. It’s a common reaction people experience when they’re frightened, especially during scary movies or haunted house visits. Example: J’ai eu la chair de poule pendant tout le film d’horreur., which translates to “I had goosebumps throughout the entire horror movie.” 

Avoir Peur De

Claquer des dents: chatter your teeth

This expression refers to the involuntary chattering of one’s teeth as a result of extreme cold or intense fear. An example sentence would be, Pierre claquait des dents quand il est entre dans la maison hantee, meaning “Pierre chattered his teeth when he entered the haunted house.” Visit this website for more information on France’s most famous haunted places to explore or avoid, depending on your level of bravery.

Using these colloquial expressions will not only help you express different levels of fear but also make your conversations more engaging and authentic during spooky celebrations in France.

The Verb “Craindre” and Its Conjugation

Are you afraid of using the verb “craindre” in French? Fear no more. This irregular verb may be formal, but it’s easy to conjugate once you know how. Let’s dive in.

Craindre – Meaning and Usage

Craindre means “to fear” or “to dread” and is used to express apprehension towards something or someone. For example, “Je crains les serpents” means “I fear snakes.” It can also be used to express concern about potential negative outcomes, as in “Nous craignons qu’il pleuve demain,” meaning “We’re worried it might rain tomorrow.”

Conjugating Craindre in Different Tenses

To use “craindre” effectively, you need to know its conjugation across various tenses:

  • Present tense:
  • Je crains (I fear)
  • Tu crains (You fear)
  • Iel/Il/Elle craint (They/He/She fears)
  • Past tense:
  • J’ai craint (I feared)
  • Tu as craint (You feared)
  • Iel/Il/Elle a craint (They/He/She feared)
  • Future tense:
  • Je craindrai (I will fear)
  • Tu craindras (You will fear)
  • Iel/Il/Elle craindra (They/He/She will fear)

Now that you know how to conjugate “craindre,” you can express your fears and concerns in French with ease. Practice using this verb in different contexts, like when telling spooky stories or expressing apprehension about upcoming events.

Derogatory Terms for Easily Frightened People

Familiarize yourself with some French derogatory terms like trouillard (a wimp) or poltron (a coward), which are commonly used when referring to easily frightened people. While these terms may not always be polite, they can add color to conversations during spooky events.

Trouillard – a wimp or someone who gets scared easily

The term trouillard, derived from the verb “se trouiller” meaning “to get scared,” is often used in casual conversation to describe someone who gets scared easily. It’s essential to bear in mind that this term carries a derogatory connotation and should be employed with caution, particularly around those who are delicate. For example:

Jean is such a wimp; he can’t watch a horror movie without screaming. (Jean est un vrai trouillard, il ne peut pas regarder un film d’horreur sans crier.)

chatter your teeth

Poltron – a coward who avoids facing their fears

A similar term, but slightly more formal than ‘trouillard,’ is poltron, which refers specifically to cowards – those who avoid confronting their fears altogether. Poltron might be an appropriate descriptor for someone too afraid even to attempt watching scary movies or visiting haunted houses during Halloween celebrations:

This coward didn’t even dare enter the haunted house. (Ce poltron n’a meme pas ose entrer dans la maison hantee.)

In addition to these derogatory terms, you may also encounter other expressions that describe fear or easily frightened people. For example, French Expressions of Fear provides a comprehensive list of idiomatic phrases and colloquialisms related to the topic.

Remember, while using these terms can be entertaining during spooky events like Halloween, it’s essential to consider the feelings of others and avoid offending anyone by overusing derogatory language.

Celebrating Halloween the French Way

Though Halloween may not be as widely celebrated in France compared to other countries, there are still numerous ways of celebrating this spooky holiday with a French twist. If you’re looking to immerse yourself in French traditions and express your fear using the vocabulary discussed above, consider participating in some of these activities:

  • Dressing up in costumes: Just like elsewhere, many people enjoy dressing up for Halloween parties or events. You can find a variety of costume shops throughout France that offer everything from classic scary outfits to more unique options.
  • Watching scary movies: A great way to practice your fear-related vocabulary is by watching horror films with French subtitles or even dubbed versions. This will help you pick up on new expressions while enjoying a thrilling movie night.
  • Visiting haunted houses: There are several haunted attractions across France where you can experience spine-chilling encounters firsthand. Some popular ones include Le Manoir de Paris and Chateau de Brissac.
  • Pumpkin patches and carving: Although pumpkin carving isn’t as widespread in France, you can still find some patches where you can pick your own pumpkins and get creative with designs. This is a fun way to celebrate the season while embracing French culture.

By participating in these activities and using the fear-related vocabulary we’ve discussed, you’ll be well on your way to celebrating Halloween like a true Francophile.

Top 5 Costume Shops In Paris

If you’re looking for the perfect Halloween costume in Paris, check out one of these top-rated shops:

  • La Fete à Loulou
  • La Caverne d’Ali Baba
  • Le Comptoir de la Gaite
  • La Petite Fripe
  • La Penderie de Paris

9 Scary French Movies That Will Make You Shiver With Fear… and Delight.

If you’re in the mood for a scary movie night, check out one of these French horror films:

  • Raw (Grave)
  • Inside (À l’interieur)
  • Martyrs
  • High Tension (Haute Tension)
  • The Horde (La Horde)
  • Calvaire
  • Frontier(s) (Frontiere(s))
  • Irreversible (Irreversible)
  • Sheitan

The Most Haunted Places To Visit In France

If you’re feeling brave, check out one of these haunted places in France:

  • Chateau de Brissac
  • Le Manoir de Paris
  • Chateau de Fougeret
  • Chateau de Trecesson
  • Chateau de Puymartin

For more information on how Halloween is celebrated in France, check out this article.

Key Takeaway: 


The article discusses ways to celebrate Halloween in France, including dressing up in costumes, watching scary movies with French subtitles or dubbed versions, visiting haunted houses and pumpkin patches. It also provides a list of the top 5 costume shops in Paris, 9 scary French movies to watch and the most haunted places to visit in France for those feeling brave.

FAQs in Relation to Fear in French

How to Express Fear in French?

French people have various ways to express fear, including using terms like la peur, l’angoisse, and la terreur, as well as verbs such as avoir peur de, s’inquieter, and trembler.

What Do French People Say When They Are Scared?

French people use colloquial expressions like etre mort(e) de peur, avoir la chair de poule, and trembler comme une feuille to convey their feelings of being scared.

What is an Example of Avoir Peur?

Avoir peur is often followed by “de” to indicate the source of fear, such as J’ai peur des araignees (I am afraid of spiders) or Tu as peur des chiens (You are afraid of dogs).


Expressing fear in French is easy with various nouns, verbs, and colloquial expressions, such as “la peur” for general fear, “l’angoisse” for anxiety or distress, and “la terreur” for extreme terror.

Use “avoir peur de” to express fear of specific objects or situations, or “craindre” to convey fear, while Halloween and horror movies are popular ways to experience fear in French culture.For more information on expressing fear in French, check out this source.