• 2-minute read
  • 5th October 2015

Word Choice: Bare vs. Bear

Homophones – similar sounding words that differ in meaning – can cause a lot of confusion, especially if English isn’t your first language.

The terms “bare” and “bear,” for example, are pronounced identically, yet mean completely different things.

As such we’ve prepared this guide on how to use “bare” and “bear” correctly, helping to ensure your written work is always at its best.

The Meaning of “Bare”

The term “bare” can be used as either an adjective or a verb. As an adjective it has two main uses, meaning either “uncovered” or “naked”:

Since going bald, Donald always hid his bare head with a wig.

Or it can mean “plain” or “simple”:

Hilary stuck to the bare facts.

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As a verb, “bare” means “uncover”:

Terry bared his chest and show off his tattoos.

The Various Meanings of “Bear”

The word “bear” is a little more difficult to define as it has a number of meanings. The most simple of these is when it’s used as a noun, referring to the large, furry, ursine animal:

The American black bear is native to many parts of the USA and Canada.

As a verb, “to bear” has a number of different meanings:

  • Carry or support (“the bus could bear up to fifty people”)
  • Withstand or tolerate (“I can’t bear rude people”)
  • Display a mark (“the letter would bear her signature”)
  • Bring forth (“to bear children,” “to bear fruit”)
  • Turn in a specific direction (“bear left at the end of the road”)
  • Give testimony (“bear witness”)

There are also a few technical meanings of the word “bear.”  In finance, for instance, a “bear” is an investor who bases decisions upon the belief that a stock or the overall market will decline. Generally, though, you will only need to know these extra meanings when writing about particular subjects.

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