Angela’s ABCs – Words Easily Confused: to bear and to bare

Usually, we don’t have trouble with bear (the noun) which means the large furry animal, or bare (the adjective) which means naked or not covered or sometimes basic, as in the bare necessities of life.

But the verbs to bear and to bare cause more problems, though it can be quite dangerous and risky to get them wrong, as you’ll see in the footnote below.

To bare means to uncover (a part of the body or other thing) and expose it to view:

He bared his chest to show off his six pack.

  • So, literally, it’s possible to bare all:

He took off all his clothes to bare all for the photoshoot.

  • But it’s also possible to bare one’s soul:

Be careful about baring your soul to another and revealing your innermost secrets.

  • And sometimes when you’re angry, you can bare your teeth:

He bared his teeth in an angry grimace.

To bear (past bore, past participle borne) has numerous meanings, including:

  • To carry:

She was bearing a dish of many different fruits.

  • To be called by:

He bore the Germanic surname Schmidt.

  • To conduct oneself:

Napoleon bore himself with dignity even in defeat.

  • To endure:

 Most people could not have borne the terrible suffering he endured.

  • To give birth to:

She married young and bore ten children before the age of thirty.

  • To produce:

We hope our lemon tree will bear fruit this year.

  • To take a particular direction:

After the roundabout, bear left and continue straight for 6KM.

  • And in the negative, to strongly dislike:

I can’t bear oysters.

Footnote

We’ve all heard the expression ‘Bear with me’, meaning please be patient and tolerant, but how many times have you seen it misspelt as ‘Bare with me’? This would be a rather saucy invitation to someone to get naked with you and should be reserved for intimate situations only. In business or even in ordinary correspondence, it could cause raised eyebrows.

 

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