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ESL Worksheets: Fear Idioms



Ask your students how they would feel if they:

  • saw a raccoon munching on food leftovers inside a garbage can in their garage?
  • heard a knock at their door at night?
  • accidentally touched a big jellyfish while swimming in the sea or ocean

Accept answers such as: scared, afraid, frightened, terrified, horrified. Tell students that afraid or scared are general words to describe fear, frightened expresses a sudden fear, terrified describes intense overpowering fear while horrified involves a state of shock.


How does a person look when s/he is scared? Elicit phrases such as:


eyes wide open

raised/furrowed eyebrows

flared nostrils

rapid breathing

clammy palms

heart pounds/beats faster


Tell students there is a plenty of idiomatic expressions in English to describe fear. Have students work in pairs on exercise A of the worksheet. Students read the idioms and decide whether the listed idioms describe the way a frightened person looks or feels.


Student Handout


Exercise A: The following idioms describe fear. Which idioms describe the way a frightened person looks (you can say a person is frightened by his/her facial expression or body movements)? Which ones are pointing to the way a frightened person feels (this is an inner feeling that is always not obvious to the naked eye)? Which expression/expressions can mean both?


have goose bumps        jump out of skin     

be scared to death     turn as white as a ghost    

shake like a leaf     hair stands on end

someone/something sends chills down one’s spine      

look like a deer caught in headlights      

break into cold sweat       blood turns cold


looking frightened

feeling frightened

looking or feeling frightened

have goose bumps

hair stands on end














Exercise B: Fill in the blanks with the missing part of the idiom.

Additional Work:

Talk to your partner and describe a frightening experience you’ve had.

What was your reaction to this experience?
How did you look and feel?
What was your posture, body movements or facial expressions like?
Were the people around you able to tell you were scared?

Answer Key:

Exercise A:

looking frightened: have goose bumps, turn as white as a ghost, shake like a leaf, look like a deer caught in headlights

feeling frightened: break into cold sweat, jump out of skin, hair stands on end, blood turns cold, someone/something sends chills down one’s spine

looking or feeling frightened: scared to death

Exercise B:

1. scared to death
2. goose bumps
3. broke into cold sweat
4. blood turned cold
5. send chills down my spine
6. jump out of skin
7. shaking like a leaf
8. looked like a deer caught in headlights
9. as white as a ghost
10. hair stood on end


ESL Worksheet: Fear Idioms
  • down my spine
  • of my skin
  • a ghost
  • a leaf
  • bumps
  • death
  • cold sweat
  • turned cold
  • on end
  • a deer caught in headlights

1. I got scared to when a stranger with his hands inside the pockets of his coat approached me.

2. I saw a white flying object hanging in the sky yesterday. It was neither a plane nor a bird. Could it have been a UFO (unidentified flying object)? I get goose every time I tell people about it.

3. Melanie broke into when she realized she left her passport at home. Her plane was about to take off in an hour.

4. My blood when I heard about a shooting in a local school.

5. Just the sound of the dental drill was enough to send chills .

6. Someone’s heavy breathing and loud footsteps made me jump out .

7. Jami is afraid of heights. She was shaking like when she was crossing the bridge a hundred meters up from the river.

8. He looked like when the policeman asked him about his whereabouts on that day.

9. The accused turned as white as and was really shaking when the witness was giving her testimony.

10. My hair stood when I realized this huge bulldog was unleashed!

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ESL Worksheet Fear Idioms.pdf

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