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Bear Minimum or Bare Minimum? A Look At Bear vs. Bare

There are many words that unfortunately sound the same. In most cases, the problem is that these words have different meanings, which can get writers in trouble if they use them interchangeably. With this, would it be correct to say “bare minimum” or “bear minimum?” 

Graphic illustrating "bear minimum" and "bare minimum". Bear refers to the animal, or to tolerate or endure. Bare means to open something to view, or to expose, naked, or minimal.

Differences Between “Bare” And “Bear”

To start, “bear” can act both as a noun (meaning the animal) or a verb, meaning “to tolerate or endure something.” For example, look at the following sentences: 

  • I saw a black bear yesterday, and it scared me! 
  • I can’t bear the thought of misplacing my phone. 
  • We may not like going to see them, but we will have to grin and bear it. 

In contrast, “bare” usually functions as a verb or an adjective. As a verb, it means “to open something to view or to expose,” and as an adjective, it means “uncovered, minimal, or naked.” For instance: 

  • It’s pretty hot outside, so I think I’m gonna wear a t-shirt that shows my bare arms. 
  • Without any silverware, my drawer was pretty bare.
  • To use a safety shower, you must strip down to your bare skin. 

Common Phrases That Mix Up “Bare” And “Bear” 

Now onto some common phrases that use these words. Most of these phrases are extremely popular in English; however, due to the nature of homophones, people often use the wrong “bear” or “bare.” 

First of all, is the phrase “bear with me.” This means being patient and taking time to understand the situation. For instance, if things aren’t going right, you may tell people to “bear with me.” 

“Bear the expense” is another common phrase in English that people mix up. This phrase means to pay for something or to experience the full cost of an action. 

Another common saying that is commonly confused is “bare minimum,” which means having the least amount of something possible. 

“Bear the pain” is a common saying that means to endure the pain or take the pain to receive a reward. 

A very common phrase, “bear fruit,” is frequently spelled incorrectly by many beginning writers. This saying means to yield something positive. 

Lastly, “bear in mind” is a phrase that is often the victim of misspelling. It means  “keep in mind.” 

Examples Of Using “Bare” And “Bear” 

  • We must stay in this together, as this problem is everyone’s burden to bear.
  • I took off my pants to reveal my bare legs. 
  • We got almost no work done. Everyone just gave their bare minimum 
  • It is a lot of work to bear the weight when moving furniture.

Related: Is it bare with me or bear with me?

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By Ryan Fisher

Ryan holds degrees from Pacific Lutheran University and specializes in proofreading, editing, and content writing with an emphasis on business communication.

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