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GMAT Idioms: Of Hope and Fear

UPDATE: You can find this blog and others about idioms in our new GMAT Idiom eBook!

These two verbs, to hope and to fear, are similar, not only in their focus on expectations for the future, but also in the large diversity of idioms they can take.  In this post, I hope to exhaust the idioms for these two verbs.   First of all, to hope, by itself, is an intransitive verb: that is, it does not take a direct object.   By contrast, to fear, is a transitive verb, and can take ordinary nouns as direct object.

1) My mom fears mice.

2) Many older people fear change.

3) New investors fear losing all their money in one spectacular crash.

In #3, the direct object of the verb “fear” is a gerund phrase.


The old stand-by: the “that” clause

Both can take a good old fashion “that” clause.  Technically, this would be a substantive clause — the substantive clause would be the direct object of the verb to fear.

4) The President hopes that the recent drops in unemployment will continue through the end of the year.

5) Mahler feared that, like Beethoven and Dvorak before him, he would die after completing his Ninth Symphony.


Idioms with hope

The verb to hope also takes the infinitive. It takes a simple infinitive if the subject of the verb to hope is the same as the subject of the infinitive.

6) I hope to go to Ireland next year.

7) She hopes to complete her Ph.D. by the age of 16.

If the subject of the hoped action is different from the subject of the hoping, then the infinitive takes a subject — remember the subject of an infinitive follows the preposition “for” and is in the objective cases (e.g. me, her, him, us, them).

8) I hope for him to recover from the illness quickly.

9) The CEO hopes for the new head of the marketing division to revolutionize the company’s customer base.

This is grammatically correct, although the “that” clause format, discussed above, might be a bit more concise.

The noun “hope” can take the preposition “for.”  Often, in this context, the noun is used in the plural.

10) Hopes for a storybook future can blur the vision of young romantic couples.

11) The analyst argued that hopes for a swift recovery of the retail sector of Appleton’s downtown business district are largely unfounded.

The preposition “in” can also be used with the noun “hope.”  Most often in this combination, the word “hope” is the object of the verb “to place” — this is the only form that could appear on the GMAT.

12) The economist places great hopes in the ability of for-profit businesses to clean up the environment.

13) In a highly unusual choice, the manager placed his hopes in the young rookie pitcher in the ninth inning of a close ball game.


Idioms with fear

The adjective “afraid” is used with an infinitive (“He is afraid to fly“), but neither the verb “to fear” nor the noun “fear” takes the infinitive.   The noun “fear” takes the proposition “of” — the object of “of” is the thing feared.

14) Triskaidekaphobia is the fear of the number 13.

15) Fears of a trade embargo caused the shipping company’s stock to drop 7% in single day.

The adjective “for” is also used with both the verb “to fear” and the noun “fear“, but with a very different sense from the proposition “of.”  Whereas “fear of X” means X is the thing feared, “fear for P” implies P is someone or something the subject likes, something that could be damaged or destroyed by the thing feared.  In other words, “to fear for Q” means “to hope to protect Q from something feared.”  In this construction, the actual thing feared, the actual threat, is often left implicit.

16) I fear for my life.

17) The diplomat fears for the fragile ceasefire in the region.

18) Because climate change is threatening many niche ecosystems, the biologist fears for the survival of several endangered species.



Know the idioms given in bold in this post.  As always with idioms, read, read, read!   Search for the idioms in this post in context.  You understand English best when you understand it in context.


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