Anxious vs. Eager – How to Use Each Correctly

enhancedwriting/ July 25, 2017/ Uncategorized

anxious versus eager

What is the Difference Between Anxious and Eager?

Anxious and eager have two very similar meanings but different connotations. Anxious can be a synonym for eager, as they can both mean excited to do something, or impatient to start something.

However, anxious often has the additional connotation of worried, or excited yet uneasy.

  • I’m anxious about the math test tomorrow because I didn’t have time to study.

Eager usually means strongly wanting to do something.

  • I’m eager to start college! It’s going to be so much fun, and I can’t wait!

Now, let’s look at the specific ways to use these words.

Using Anxious in a Sentence

When to use anxious: Anxious is an adjective that people typically use to mean nervous or distressed. Occasionally, people use it when they are anticipating an upcoming event with great interest and excitement.

For example,

  • My sixteen-year-old son is learning to drive, which makes me very anxious. (worried connotation)
  • I’m anxious to get to the party and start having fun! (excited connotation)

Phrases That Use Anxious

There are several collocations and phrases that use anxious.

  • anxious to please: wanting to impress others or make others happy.
    • The new employee was anxious to please his new boss, so he volunteered to stay late and do extra work.
  • become/grow anxious: to increase one’s anxiety.
    • He grew anxious as he waited to hear whether or not he would lose his job.
  • increasingly anxious: becoming more and more anxious.
    • As time passed after the kidnapping, the parents grew increasingly anxious.

Using Eager in a Sentence

When to use eager: Eager is an adjective that means looking forward to something with impatience or excitement.

For example,

  • The children were eager to go to the park.
  • The students are always eager for summer vacation.

Phrases That Use Eager

There are several phrases and collocations with eager.

  • Eager to please: Wanting to impress others or make others happy. This has the same meaning as anxious to please.
    • The dog was eager to please his new owners, so he worked very hard to protect their house from the mailman.
  • Eager beaver: A very person who is excited to work hard.
    • The boss liked the employee because she always worked hard and did a good job. However, the other employees thought she was too much of an eager beaver. They wished she would calm down and not work so hard.
  • Eager to/for: Eager to do an action/Eager for a thing.
    • The guests were eager to eat. (action)
    • The guests were eager for the meal. (thing)

Remembering Anxious vs. Eager

One way to remember the difference between these words is to think of the noun form of anxious, which is anxiety.

Anxiety means a feeling of being worried or panicked. This can help you remember that anxious has this connotation of being a bad feeling, whereas eager does not.

Outside Examples

  • Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna says he is out of sorts mentally, feeling “anxious” and “weird.” And that is why he was unavailable to pitch Friday. –New York Post
  • For the moment, Nolan is stuck in an anxious state of suspense. “It’s this kind of horrible holding pattern of stress,” he said. “I make films for an audience, so for me, the film isn’t complete until it goes out there into the world. It’s this awful, tense moment. It never gets any easier.” –LA Times
  • Ever since he was deported, Montes has been living with relatives in western Mexico. In an April interview with USA TODAY, he said he was eager to get back home to continue his education and reunite with his family. –USA Today
  • It’s simply that the 2015 Broadway show, now in an eager-to-please Equity touring production at the Oriental Theatre, offers the equivalent of an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet, bursting with references to the Bard and Almost Every Musical Ever Made that range from farm-fresh funny to steam-table stale. –Chicago Tribune

Quiz: Eager vs. Anxious

Choose the best word to fill the blank.

  • Whenever his parents yelled at him, the boy felt very _____________.
  • The athletes chosen for the team were smiling and ___________.
  • The teachers and students became __________ when they heard a gunshot near the school.
  • He was a very positive and dedicated student, so some of his classmates made fun of him for being an _________ beaver.
  • The football team was __________ to win the game.

Article Summary

Should I use anxious or eager? These two words can sometimes be interchangeable when you want to express excitement. However there is one major difference.

  • Anxious implies unease or worry, much like the word anxiety.
  • Eager implies positive feelings.

Make sure you aware of this difference when choosing which of these words to use.

Quiz Answers

  • anxious
  • eager
  • anxious
  • eager
  • anxious or eager (either answer is acceptable here)