Anxious or Eager?

woman with pink hair with concerned look on her face and the words: Are you anxious or eager? (Yes, there's a difference.)

Confusing anxious for eager is a very common word usage error. In this post, we’ll learn the difference between anxious and eager and how to remember which is which.

“I am so anxious to see you!”

How many times have you heard or said this? I’m sure it’s a lot, right? However, most of the time, anxious was probably not the right word to use (unless you are talking about your dreaded Uncle Merv).

Anxious is linked to anxiety. So the feeling of anxious is a negative thing. Anxious is that feeling of unease, nervousness, and worry that you may experience before a big test, a presentation in front of your boss, or, sometimes, when you check your bank account.

Say your best friend is about to arrive for an out-of-town visit. You are excited to see her, you are happily thinking about all of the fun things you’ll do while she’s there, and you are counting down the hours till her arrival. If that’s the case, then you are not anxious to see her; you are eager.

Instead, you would say, “I am so eager to see you!”

Being eager means you are excited and impatient and you have a great desire to do something or have something.

Being eager is a positive thing, and most of the time, being anxious is viewed negatively.

Here are examples of anxious and eager used the correct way:

  • He is eager to get his package in the mail.
  • He is anxious to get all the bills he can’t pay.

 

  • She is eager to go to the school dance and show off her dress.
  • She is anxious that her first kiss will be a disaster.

In these examples, eager has a positive connotation and anxious has a negative connotation.

How to remember the difference
Simply remember that anxious is linked to anxiety.

You can also link eager to excited, since they both start with the letter E.

anxious = anxiety
eager = excited

Can these words be interchangeable?
There has been a trend of using anxious and eager interchangeably. However, I still think there should be a distinction. Remember that anxiety is a medical condition that often requires medication and treatment. It can be a very serious and life-altering condition for those who have it. Using the word so casually (and incorrectly) downplays and waters down, in my opinion, anxiety’s true severity. People who don’t have anxiety already tend not to understand how difficult living with it can be. Misusing it in our speech adds to this confusion and lack of knowledge.

Quiz
Determine whether to use anxious or eager in each sentence.

  1. Edwin is anxious/eager that he’ll lose in the video game.
  2. Edwin is anxious/eager to eat his favorite ice cream.
  3. Edwin is anxious/eager for the first day of school, thinking of all that could go wrong.
  4. Edwin is anxious/eager to open his birthday present.

Answers:
1. anxious 2. eager 3. anxious 4. eager

Erin Servais is the founder of Dot and Dash, LLC, an author-services company focusing on women writers and offering a range of editing, coaching, and social media packages.

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