Looking up the usage of these words on reverso seems they are quite similar. I found this italki thread, but it only seems to add in my confusion since it has two seemingly conflicting answers.

Could someone explain how the usage of these two words differ?

2 Answers 2


You're probably talking about point 1a on Wiktionary.

Ich befürchte/fürchte, ich verliere meinen Job.

Both are fine and means the practically the same. You're using it like as a verb of saying in this one - indicated by the Verbzweitnebensatz "ich verliere meinen Job".

In any other usage, they are not similar at all. Please see the Wiktionary link for all its uses.
For example:

  • fürchten can be used for people in two usages, but befürchten can not.
  • fürchten is used reflexively in one usage, but befürchten is never used reflexively.

From my point of view, fürchten is a bit more universal, since it can directly refer to somebody or something (provided by an accusative object):

  • Kinder fürchten die Dunkelheit.
  • Ich fürchte mich.

Befürchten is typically applied to a situation, which follows e. g. by an auxiliary clause.

Ich befürchte, dass die Bankenkrise anhält.

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