Bear With Me or Bare With Me: Which One is Right?

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Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

English is full of confusing phrases and homophones that can trip up even the most experienced writers. One such phrase used in everyday conversation that often causes confusion is “bear with me.” Or is it “bare with me?”

The identical pronunciation of the word “bear” and “bare” leads to frequent mix-ups, but each word has distinct meanings and usage.

Difference between “bear” and “bare”

Before we explore why “bare with me” is incorrect — and yes, “bear with me” is the correct expression — let’s clarify the difference between “bear” and “bare.”

“Bear” is a verb that can mean to carry, support, tolerate, or endure. For example, you can say, “She bears the weight of responsibility” or “I can’t bear the thought of losing you.”

On the other hand, “bare” is an adjective or a verb that means to uncover, expose, or make something naked or empty. For instance, you might say, “He walked into the room with his bare feet” or “The bare tree branches were another sign of winter.”

Origins of the phrase “bear with me”

The commonly used phrase “bear with me” dates back to the 14th century and has its roots in Middle English. It uses the word “bear” as a verb, which means to endure or tolerate something. When you ask someone to “bear with you,” you’re essentially asking them to exercise patience or forbearance while you complete a task, explain something, or navigate a situation. You’re asking for understanding with the implication that you may need a moment to gather your thoughts or continue with what you were doing.

Please bear with me while I finish this report. It will only take a few more minutes.

I’m experiencing technical difficulties with the presentation. Please bear with me as I try to resolve the issue.

Why is “bare with me” the incorrect usage

Once you consider the meaning of the verb “bear” versus the verb “bare,” it’s easy to understand why “bare with me” is incorrect. “Bare with me” would imply a request to uncover or expose oneself alongside the speaker, which may belong in some kind of weird, steamy Shakespearean-era romance, but is not the intended meaning in today’s parlance. 

How to correctly use “bear with me” in writing

Speaking of Shakespeare, he used the expression in Julius Caesar.

Mark Antony: Bear with me; My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar.

One mnemonic I use to make sure I’m using “bear with me” and not “bare with me” is to think that patience requires strength, and bears are strong creatures.

Please bear with me as I explain the intricacies of this complex topic to those of us not familiar with it.

I’m still gathering my thoughts — please bear with me while I organize my ideas.

The process might take some time, but if you bear with me, we’ll arrive at a solution.

Alternatives to saying “bear with me”

If you find yourself using “bear with me” too frequently, you can either change your behavior so you do things faster, or diversify your English language vocabulary. Assuming that changing your language is the easier solution, here are some alternative phrases to convey a similar message:

Please give me a moment to explain the intricacies of this complex topic to those of us not familiar with it.

Please have patience as I finish this report. It will only take a few more minutes.

I’m experiencing technical difficulties with the presentation. I appreciate your understanding as I try to resolve the issue.

These alternative phrases maintain the same request for patience or understanding but offer variety and prevent repetition in your writing.

Editing will help make sure all your turns of phrase are correct

Of course, some writers will use the wrong homophone when they are writing — even though they intellectually know which one is the correct phrase or word. Remember this: Writers cannot be the sole (not soul) editor of their own work. They will gloss over mistakes or errors that are obvious to others. That’s why you need an editor for your book.

The good news is BookBaby offers professional editing services — including copy editing services — at affordable prices. That way, you’ve got another set of eyes making sure you’re toeing the line instead of towing the line. Know what I mean?

BookBaby Editing Services

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