Bare or Bear?

by Craig Shrives

The difference between "Bare" and "Bear"

"Bare" and "bear" are easy to confuse. The confusion arises because, knowing a "bear" is a large mammal (e.g., a brown bear), writers feel uncomfortable using "bear" in its other meanings. In fact, "bear" is a very versatile word. "Bare" is far less versatile. It means empty or exposed (e.g., without clothes). Here are some common expressions with "bear":
  • Bear with me
  • Bear fruit
  • Bear in mind
  • Bear the cost
  • Bear the pain
  • Bear the brunt
  • Bear the burden
  • Bear the consequences
  • Bear the thought
  • Bear the weight
  • Bear the name


  • "Bare" means empty or exposed (e.g., without clothes).
  • For everything else, use "bear."
Note: The term "to bear fruit" uses "bear" not "bare." (This term is often mistakenly written as "to bare fruit.")
bare or bear?

More about "Bare" and "Bear"


The adjective "bare" means uncovered, naked, exposed (i.e., without cover, clothing, or cladding), or empty.

Example sentences with "bare":
  • Don't go out in bare feet. You'll catch a cold.
  • Was the protestor totally bare when he ran in the meeting room?
  • You need to cover those pipes. Bare pipes will freeze this winter.
  • We haven't done our grocery shopping this week, and I'm afraid the cupboards are bare.
  • Peter ploughed those fields with his bear hands?
  • (This should be "bare hands.")


The word "bear" has four main meanings:

(1) To carry (in many senses of the word).
  • We come bearing gifts for your chief.
  • Our camels do not mate regularly, but we are expecting Tsu Tsu to bear her first baby next season.
  • This small tree bears hundreds of apples every year.
  • Who will bear the responsibility for this vandalism?
  • My auntie is the tall lady bearing the green hat.
  • (Bear means "to wear" as opposed "to carry" in this example.)
  • He bears himself with utmost dignity.
  • (Bear can mean "to carry" in an even looser sense.)
  • You bear a resemblance to your mother.
  • Does this document bear your signature?
  • I bear bad news, I'm afraid.
(2) To endure or to tolerate.
  • Mrs Taylor cannot bear the constant drone of the generator.
  • I have learnt to bear the cold.
  • It is very easy to endure the difficulties of one's enemies. It is the successes of one's friends that are hard to bear. (Playwright Oscar Wilde)
(3) To maintain a direction.
  • Bear left at the next two Y junctions.
  • This track bears north for the next 10 miles and then bears east as far as the lake.
(4) A large mammal.

A Video Summary

Here is a short video summarizing the difference between "bear" and "bare."

Bore, Borne, and Born

The past tense of "to bear" is bore. For example:
  • They bore gifts for the chief.
  • You bore a remarkable resemblance to your mother when you were younger.
The past passive participle of "to bear" is borne. For example:
  • The burden borne by the managerial team was simply too heavy.
However, when talking about birth, the alternative participle "born" is used (as an adjective or in a passive sentence). For example:
  • I was London-born.
  • (Here, "born" is part of an adjective.)
  • She was born in New York.
  • (This is "born" in a passive sentence.)
  • The child was borne to a witch.
  • (This should be "born.")
Note: The word before "born" is usually the verb to be (e.g., "is," "was," "were," "been").

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See Also

adverse or averse? affect or effect? appraise or apprise? avenge or revenge? complement or compliment? dependant or dependent? discreet or discrete? disinterested or uninterested? e.g. or i.e.? envy or jealousy? imply or infer? its or it's? material or materiel? poisonous or venomous? practice or practise? principal or principle? bear or bare with me? who's or whose? What are adjectives? How to improve your English spelling List of easily confused words

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