60-second fix: bear and bare

Ah, what a wonderful language English is. You can bear a child, bear a responsibility, ask someone to bear with you, bear a heavy load or bare your teeth.

Confusion arises in the verb form, especially in the past tense. In the present tense, there are two spellings: bear and bare.

to bear has two meanings:

•  to give birth to

•  to carry, support, accept responsibility for, tolerate, endure

to bare means to uncover, to become naked.

Thus bear with me (tolerate, wait, put up with me) and bare with me (let’s get naked) have quite different connotations.

This distinction gets trickier in the past tense. Grin and bear it while we explain (bear it, Colin, not bare it):

•  born
the past participle of  bear in the sense of  give birth to

borne
the past participle of  bear in the sense of  carry, support, accept responsibility for, tolerate, endure

•  bared
the past participle of bare, meaning uncover or become naked

So you would write:

I was born in London.
It was a daydream born out of boredom.

(given birth to)

He has borne the responsibility admirably.
I couldn’t have borne it for much longer.

(carried, tolerated)

The tiger bared its teeth.
He bared his soul.

(uncovered, revealed)

We hope that’s laid bare a few truths for you to bear in mind – and, of course, that it hasn’t left you feeling too much like a bear with a sore head.

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