彼はおそらく来るだろう。

English Translation

He is likely to come.

Does おそらく have a negative connotation? as in, “I’m afraid he will come.”

@ericaw
I guess your question was from the image of the Kanji 恐れる (frighten). But we use 恐らく or おそらく in a neutral way.

A: When will the next bus come? B: おそらく (probably) in 5 minutes or so.

A: Who is in charge of this project? B: おそらく (probably) Mr. Tanaka is.

There is no negative connotation in these sentences.

I give you additional example sentences with a related common phrase: 恐縮です(きょうしゅくです). The two Kanji means “scary /fearful” and “to shrink/shorten”. But we often use 恐縮ですが in a neutral way.

このような贈り物を頂き、恐縮です。(このようなおくりものをいただき、きょうしゅくです)= Thank you so much for giving such a wonderful gift. (lit. = I am frighten and I even feel like my body is shorten when I get a gift from you.)

お忙しいところ恐縮ですが、ご検討のほど宜しくお願い申し上げます。(おいそがしいところきょうしゅくですが、ごけんとうのほどよろしくおねがいもうしあげます)= You may be too busy to squeeze your time, but I would appreciate if you could further consider our proposal/request/inquiry. (lit. = I am frightened and my body is shorten, but I humbly and sincerely request you to further consider our proposal/request/inquiry.)

All of them use the Kanji 恐 to lower something. 恐らく (probably/perhaps) lowers the certainty of your opinion. 恐縮です lowers your social/mental position to show respect for the listener.

As an English speaker, you are taken aback by something/someone surprising. When we (Japanese speakers) face unexpected, unpredictable or overwhelming situations, we become smaller/shorter. The directions are different: horizontal in English and vertical in Japanese.

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