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彼は自殺の恐れがある

So does this sentence mean...

(1) He is afraid of suicide
(2) He is suicidal

If it's (1), how would the sentence change to mean (2)? Or vice versa.

1 Answer 1

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~の恐れ only means either of those things:

  • possessive:

    彼の恐れ his fear

  • modifier:

    一瞬の恐れ a momentary fear; a flash of fear

  • "worrisome possibility of" (risk/susceptibility...):

    逃亡の恐れ being a flight risk
    大雪の恐れ (unwelcome) likelihood of heavy snow

So your sentence always means (2). Similarly, [clause] + 恐れ is always appositive, such as:

地震で倒壊する恐れ risk of collapsing during an earthquake

Although, as verb, 恐れる "fear" takes a direct object such as 人を恐れる "be afraid of people", its synonymous noun phrase is made with ~への恐れ or ~に対する恐れ, thus:

自殺の恐れ possibility of suicide
自殺への恐れ being afraid of committing suicide


PS: In my third definition, ~のおそれ should be prescriptively spelled with 虞 instead of 恐れ, but it is not obeyed by many.

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