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Quick answer
"Espantarse" is a pronominal verb which is often translated as "to get frightened", and "tener miedo" is an intransitive verb phrase which is often translated as "to be afraid". Learn more about the difference between "espantarse" and "tener miedo" below.
espantarse(
ehs
-
pahn
-
tahr
-
seh
)
A pronominal verb always uses a reflexive pronoun. (e.g. Te ves cansado.).
1. (to be afraid)
a. to get frightened
El perro se espantó con los fuegos artificiales.The dog got frightened by the fireworks.
2. (to be driven away)
a. to be frightened away
¡Estas moscas no se espantan fácilmente!These flies are not easily frightened away!
3. (to be horrified)
a. to be appalled
Vas a espantarte cuando veas el estado de la cocina.You'll be appalled when you see the state the kitchen is in.
espantar
A transitive verb is a verb that requires a direct object (e.g. I bought a book.).
4. (to make afraid)
a. to frighten
Los truenos espantaron a los niños.The thunder frightened the kids.
b. to scare
Aquel ruido tan fuerte nos espantó.That loud noise scared us.
5. (to drive away)
a. to frighten away
Estas velas sirven para espantar a los mosquitos.These candles frighten away mosquitoes.
6. (to horrify)
a. to appall
Los asesinatos espantaron a la opinión pública.Public opinion was appalled by the murders.
An intransitive verb is one that does not require a direct object (e.g. The man sneezed.).
7. (to make afraid)
a. to be frightening
La vieja mansión espantaba.The old mansion was frightening.
b. to be scary
Espanta pensar lo que podría haber ocurrido en aquel sótano.It's scary to think what might have happened in that basement.
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tener miedo(
teh
-
nehr
 
myeh
-
doh
)
An intransitive verb phrase is a phrase that combines a verb with a preposition or other particle and does not require a direct object (e.g. Everybody please stand up.).
intransitive verb phrase
1. (general)
a. to be afraid
Eugenio les tiene miedo a los payasos.Eugenio is afraid of clowns.
b. to be scared
Tenía demasiado miedo para ver los resultados de su prueba.She was too scared to look at her test results.
c. to be frightened
¿Por qué tiemblas? ¿Tienes miedo?Why are you shaking? Are you frightened?
d. to fear
No tengo miedo al futuro.I don't fear the future.
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