Is It Steer Clear or Stear Clear?

Do you stear or steer clear of it when you try to avoid something?

You aren’t wrong if you see steer and think an ox who has not yet turned fourSteer has numerous uses, though. Another one is to navigate.

The word stear, is a little trickier though. Most word processors flag it as an error, but is it an actual word?

Continue on to learn more about both versions of this potentially confusing English expression.

Stear Clear and Steer Clear

This article will compare stear clear vs. steer clear and use the correct version of this phrase in several example sentences. That way, you will be able to see it in its appropriate context.

At the end, I will also share a helpful memory tool that will assist you in becoming a solid writer.

Using Steer Clear

What does steer clear mean? Steer clear is a verb phrase. It is an idiom meaning that means to stay away from something. For example, children might steer clear of a bully at the park, or an investor might steer clear of a bad investment.

Examples

  • “I steer clear of Karen at parties,” the woman said of her particularly vexing acquaintance.
  • Steer clear of any scam phone calls that ask for a social security number.
  • Officials warn residents to steer clear of Jemez because of wildfire. [Rio Rancho Observer]

Steer clear includes the verb steer, which means to navigate, and clear, an adverb meaning at a safe distance. Therefore, taken literally, steer clear means to navigate to a place of safety.

Of course, Steer can also be a noun referring to male cattle. This meaning is unrelated to the phrase steer clear.

Using Stear Clear

What does stear clear mean? Stear clear is simply a misspelling of the idiom steer clear, as stear is not an accepted spelling of any word, let alone steer.

This spelling probably relates to the -ear ending of clear. Inexperienced or impulsive writers probably generalize the similar spelling across both words, resulting in the incorrect stear clear.

Steer clear is over 1000 times more common than stear clear, which only appears on the rarest of occasions.

A Trick to Remember the Difference

Since stear clear is a misspelling, it has no place in a writer’s vocabulary. This fact leaves us with only one spelling to use in our writing: steer clear.

Since stear clear contains an extra A, like avoid, you should remember to avoid this spelling.

Summary

Is it steer clear or stear clear? Stear clear is a colloquial verb phrase that means to stay away from something.

  • Steer clear is the proper spelling of this phrase.
  • Stear clear is only a spelling error.

Steer clear probably stems from overgeneralizing the -ear ending to both words.


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