Homophones are some of the toughest words to sort through, regardless of whether you are a native or non-native English speaker. Although they are spelled differently, homophones sound exactly the same when spoken out loud – so if you aren’t a terrific speller, you’re likely to struggle with homophones. One of the most commonly confused homophone pairs is bare and bear, which begs the question: does a support beam bear the weight or bare the weight?
Knowing How to Use Bare vs. Bear
From a black bear to a polar bear, we’re all familiar with the large, furry creature that we call “bear” when it’s a noun, but we also use “bear” as a verb. “Bear” means to support, hold, or have when used as a verb. Here are a few ways that we use bear in everyday English:
EXAMPLE: A polar bear may be beautiful to look at, but it’s certainly not a creature that you want to come face to face with.
EXAMPLE: “I can’t bear the thought of living a day without you,” she whispered.
EXAMPLE: The right to bear arms is a hotly contested section of our national law.
“Bare” is used as a verb or as an adjective in American English. When used as an adjective, it could describe something that is exposed, minimal, or naked. As a verb, bare means to open, to reveal, or to uncover.
EXAMPLE: The grocery store shelves were picked bare even before the hurricane came through.
EXAMPLE: Lindsey’s greatest strength as a songwriter is her willingness to bare her soul in every line.
Quick Guide to the Most Common Phrases that Use Bare and Bear
American English has plenty of phrases that use “bear” and “bare,” and it can be easy to confuse the two. The good news is that you know the difference between bear and bare, and should be able to master these phrases from here on out! Test yourself with this quick guide to the most commonly confused sayings.
To bear with me means you are asking someone to be patient or understanding. (Please bear with me for a few minutes while I troubleshoot my internet connection.)
The bare minimum means the absolute lowest requirement possible. (At a bare minimum, we need to have two days’ notice to guarantee your reservation.)
To bear in mind means that you are asking someone to remember or highlight an important point. (The restaurant is only 10 minutes away, but bear in mind that we’ll be leaving at rush hour and will need to deal with heavy traffic.)
To bare one’s teeth means getting angry and – quite literally – showing teeth. (The dog growled and bared its teeth at the window, and I knew it was time to go.)
To bear fruit describes a successful outcome. (Finally, after years of effort to lose weight, my exercise routine is finally starting to bear fruit.)
To bear the weight means to support. (The beams on the first floor are intended to bear the weight of the entire structure).
Examples From Inspiring English Sources
Tyson into the ropes and belted him a few times and then, like a man looking for a boost from a friend, pressed down on Tyson’s shoulders. Tyson couldn’t bear the weight. He slumped to the canvas. And it was there, on his backside, that Tyson (if ensuing vows can be trusted) concluded his career. – The New Yorker
Miley Cyrus’s outfits at the VMAs kind of make me despair for humanity – but to explain why, I first have to spoil the ending of a 31-year-old short story. Bear with me, please. – The Guardian.
“Throwing oneself boldly towards goals risks setbacks; but one also attains unexpected results,” writes Beauvoir. “Prudence necessarily leads to mediocrity.” It’s advice than we should all bear in mind. – The Independent
The president’s headache is that he has lots of ideas, but they are mostly the same ones that he has been promoting since he took office. His argument is that they need time to bear fruit. – The Economist