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Is it bear with me or bare with me?

Homophones are one of the trickiest things in the English language. They sound the same but mean two totally different things and have two different spellings. There is a lot to learn. Furthermore, bare and bear are also homographs, which means they each have multiple, different meanings for the one spelling.

Between the two spellings, you have a noun, an adjective, and two verbs! Do not worry, in this article we are going to break it down completely and by the time you are done, you will know precisely which bear/bare you should use.

Bear

Bear can be broken down into a few different meanings. First of all, bear is a noun. It is a large furry creature that comes in various forms such as polar bear, brown bear, Banda bear, and grizzly bear. 🐻

This is probably one of the most common/well-known usages of the words bear/bare because it is taught to kids from a very young age, before any of the other definitions. For that reason, it is probably not the version that you do not know or understand, but if it is, remember that a bEAR has EARs.

The second definition of the word bear is to tolerate or endure something hard. Now, this is where you might start getting confused. If you know the first definition of bear (as mentioned above), you can use this to help you remember the spelling. Bears are strong creatures, and you have to be strong to bear something. Of course, that is only one trick. If you think of something that works better for you, use it!

Bare

Bare also has two meanings, but they are related, which makes it easier. First of all, bare can be used as an adjective that means naked, minimal, without supplies, or uncovered.

If you say “bare butt” you are talking about a naked butt, however, if you say “bear butt” you are talking about a large, furry butt that you probably want to stay away from, and finally, if you say “bare bear butt” you are talking about a naked bear butt. A good way to remember this definition is to think that you need a BAR of soap to wash your BARe body.

Bare can also be used as a verb. It means to open or reveal something. Someone may bare their heart, their feelings, etc. They may also bare their bare butt. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of tricks to remember this definition. You can try to memorize a short sentence like, “I do not want to bare my bare butt.” But of course, that only works if you can remember the other definition of bare.

Common phrases

I know that this may still seem complicated. You now know the different definitions, but it may still seem daunting to memorize them all. But, practice makes perfect, so let’s look at a few common phrases with bare/bear and talk through them. By the time we break down all these sentences, you should be feeling more confident in your knowledge.

Bear/bare with me

When you ask someone to bear/bare with you, you are asking them to do something with you, so we know this should be a verb. What are they asking their audience to do? Stick with them! This works with the second definition of bear, so the correct answer is bear with me.

Example: Please bear with me to the end, I promise it gets better.

Bear/bare the cost

Once again, this phrase is asking a person to do something; therefore, you should be looking at only the verb definitions: to reveal or to endure. Typically, people do not use this phrase to ask someone to “reveal the cost” but rather to take on or endure the cost. Therefore, the correct version of this phrase is, “bear the cost.”

Example: I was going to sue the company, but I cannot bear the cost if I lose.

Bear/bare minimum

Bear/bare in this sentence describing the minimum, it is an adjective. That narrows it down pretty fast to bare, meaning naked, minimal, uncovered, etc. This phrase is talking about the lowest minimum possible; nothing added on.

Example: I was tired last night, so I only did the bare minimum to prepare for today.

Bear/bare in mind

Once again, we are looking at the verb forms of the words. This phrase means to keep in mind, which is not directly related to either definition, but it is most closely associated with bear, and bear is the correct spelling. With phrases like this, you can usually assume it will be the bear spelling if you are not sure, as that is usually the more common.

Example: Bear in mind that this is my first day, and I do not know what I am doing.

Bear/bare the pain

This bear/bare is a verb. When someone uses this phrase, they are asking (or telling) someone to endure or tolerate the pain; therefore, the correct phrase is bear the pain.

Example: You have to bear the pain of your decisions.

Bear/bare feet

Are you talking about a bear’s feet or feet without shoes? If you are talking about a bear’s feet, you should use the word paws and the spelling b-e-a-r. However, if you are talking about feet without shoes or socks, you are talking about naked feet, and the correct spelling is b-a-r-e.

Example: I love having bare feet in the summer.

Bear/bare fruit

This is another weird phrase that does not work perfectly with either definition, but it means to produce a result and should use the b-e-a-r spelling. As mentioned above, most weird phrases use this spelling.

Example: Working hard bears good fruit.

Bear/bare cabinets

When something is bare/bear, it is empty or naked; therefore, the correct version of this phrase is bare cabinets.

Example: The cabinets are bear because I have not been able to get to the store.

Okay, now you have all the information you need to use the homophones bear and bare. As mentioned at the beginning, it is one of the trickier English phenomena, but it is not impossible. You can do it!

Sources

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Brian Jackson

I craft actionable content and develop performance-driven WordPress plugins. Connect on Twitter, subscribe to my newsletter (once a month), or buy me coffee.

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