Professional Style

Anxious vs. Eager

April 2010
Spot the Error

Even though Erica thoroughly enjoyed the semester she spent overseas in the study-abroad program, she was anxious to return home and see her friends and family.

Time and time again—primarily in spoken English—you find anxious used as a synonym for eager. Many people believe the words are interchangeable; however, that is not the case.

It is true that both words convey the idea of anticipation, but that’s where the similarities end. While eager connotes a sense of desire, anxious connotes a sense of apprehension or uneasiness. For example:

Riley was anxious about taking the calculus exam because he hadn’t had time to study.

In the “study abroad” sentence, Erica is not uneasy about seeing her friends and family, but rather looking forward to it; so the appropriate word would be eager.

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