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

Summary

  • "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"

Bare

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. correct tick
  • Was the protestor totally bare when he ran in the meeting room? correct tick
  • You need to cover those pipes. Bare pipes will freeze this winter. correct tick
  • We haven't done our grocery shopping this week, and I'm afraid the cupboards are bare. correct tick
  • Peter ploughed those fields with his bear hands? wrong cross
  • (This should be "bare hands.")

Bear

The word "bear" has four main meanings:

(1) To carry (in many senses of the word).
  • We come bearing gifts for your chief. correct tick
  • Our camels do not mate regularly, but we are expecting Tsu Tsu to bear her first baby next season. correct tick
  • This small tree bears hundreds of apples every year. correct tick
  • Who will bear the responsibility for this vandalism? correct tick
  • My auntie is the tall lady bearing the green hat. correct tick
  • (Bear means "to wear" as opposed "to carry" in this example.)
  • He bears himself with utmost dignity. correct tick
  • (Bear can mean "to carry" in an even looser sense.)
  • You bear a resemblance to your mother. correct tick
  • Does this document bear your signature? correct tick
  • I bear bad news, I'm afraid. correct tick
(2) To endure or to tolerate.
  • Mrs Taylor cannot bear the constant drone of the generator. correct tick
  • I have learnt to bear the cold. correct tick
  • 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. correct tick (Playwright Oscar Wilde)
(3) To maintain a direction.
  • Bear left at the next two Y junctions. correct tick
  • This track bears north for the next 10 miles and then bears east as far as the lake. correct tick
(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. correct tick
  • You bore a remarkable resemblance to your mother when you were younger. correct tick
The past passive participle of "to bear" is borne. For example:
  • The burden borne by the managerial team was simply too heavy. correct tick
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. correct tick
  • (Here, "born" is part of an adjective.)
  • She was born in New York. correct tick
  • (This is "born" in a passive sentence.)
  • The child was borne to a witch. wrong cross
  • (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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