The Easy Explanation
“Bare” is an adjective that means uncovered: The bare floors and windows made the house look deserted.
“Bear” is a noun signifying the animal (or stuffed animal): The bear swiped a big paw toward the beehive.
“Bear” can also be a verb meaning to endure or to carry: After bearing the stress of the long hike, Susan could hardly bear the weight of her pack as she reached camp.
(Note: Phrases—such as “bear in mind” and “bear down”—use the spelling “bear.”)
When to Use Bare vs. Bear
The word “bare” is an adjective meaning uncovered (as in bare feet).
The word “bear” can be a noun meaning the mammal or stuffed animal (as in a teddy bear) or it can be a verb meaning to endure (as in I can’t bear this.) or to carry (as in a stranger bearing gifts).
Examples of Bare vs. Bear
- The sun felt very hot on John’s bare arms. (meaning uncovered)
- She alone would have to bear the brunt of the family’s bills. (meaning carry)
- The bear used its powerful claws to kill its prey. (meaning the mammal)
- Unfortunately, the lawyer couldn’t bear the thought of another trial. (meaning endure)
How to Remember the Difference
If you can replace the word with “naked” and the sentence still makes sense, then the correct spelling is “bare.” (You can remember this because “naked” and “bare” are both spelled with one “a” in the middle.)
Carolyn had to bear the knowledge that she had hurt someone while texting and driving.
Carolyn had to [NAKED] the knowledge that she had hurt someone while texting and driving. (Doesn’t make sense, so the correct version is “bear.”)
Theory Into Practice: Which Is Which?
Is the underlined word correct? See if you can tell.
- She couldn’t bare the cold any longer and went inside the cabin.
Wrong: The word means “endure,” so it should be “bear.”
- Her bare head had just gotten too cold.
Right: The word can successfully be replaced with “naked,” so “bare” is correct.