Borne By, Borne On, and Borne With

By Maeve Maddox

The English word bear has so many definitions and uses that it could provide fodder for several posts. This article is about the use of the past participle borne followed by a preposition.

Here is the odd usage in my local newspaper that prompted this post:

there’s blame to be borne on everyone.

I looked on the Web to see if anyone else was using “borne on” in this way. I found these examples:

[Lack of fresh food] leads to lower lifespans in these areas, higher healthcare costs borne on everyone and general malaise.

And, we had people opting out of the system and waiting until they got sick to charge ER costs that were ultimately borne on everyone else. 

If you have seen the documentary The Corporation, you will be familiar with the economics term externalities — which are the external costs of any enterprise which are borne on everyone else but the enterprise itself.

Today most people think that [the expense of] having children should be borne on everyone else.

Blame and expense are borne by people, not on them.

Here are examples of the correct use of borne followed by the prepositions with, on, and by:

His wife has borne with his faults for fifty years.

The returning war hero was borne on the shoulders of two burly police officers.

The price increase was borne by consumers.

Borne is more poetic than mere carried. Fitzgerald used the word in the closing line of The Great Gatsby:

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

Borne often has the connotation that whatever is being carried–literally or figuratively– requires great effort:

Over the casket the great flag that had draped it [was] held widespread in the hands of the eight petty officers who had borne the heavy weight to its place.

She is a woman who has borne disappointment all her life.

Borne is used as a suffix to create words that have the sense of being carried or distributed:

Water-borne diseases are any illness caused by drinking water contaminated by human or animal faeces, which contain pathogenic microorganisms.

High in the sky, water in clouds can act as a temptress to lure airborne pollutants such as sulfur dioxide into reactive aqueous particulates.

The speaker who said, “There’s blame to be borne on everyone” was mixing up two ideas. Blame is placed on someone, but, once placed, blame is borne by the person blamed.

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13 Responses to “Borne By, Borne On, and Borne With”

  • Dale A Wood

    Many heavy burdens were borne by Franklin Roosevelt and Churchill, and Roosevelt’s overkwhelmed him in April 1945.
    DAW

  • Dale A Wood

    The weight of the entire planet was borne on the shoulders of ATLAS.
    DAW

  • Dale A Wood

    The name ATLAS was later borne by a mighty American rocket – one that is still produced.

  • venqax

    I think I get it.

    “Many a DWT reader has been borne the leaden weight of wooden words.”

    “The heavy cross was borne again by the congregation to its new place above the altered altar.”

    “The tranquilized bear was taken by the rangers back to the forest, borne to be wild.”

    “Once again, Jason had borne a new identity.”

  • venqax

    “Many a DWT reader has borne the leaden weight of wooden words.”

    No been.

    “The huge flag was borne on the 4th of July by the steadiest paraders.”

    Can’t stop, bear with me…

  • Maeve

    Enough! I can’t bear it.

  • Dale A Wood

    Maeve has borne heavy burdens on her shoulders, much like ATLAS did.
    Greek mythology is useful everywhere!
    DAW

  • Dale A Wood

    Ancient Greek souls were borne over the River Styx……

  • Dale A Wood

    Venqax, what about the Argonauts?

  • Precise Edit

    Respectfully disagree with “His wife has borne with his faults….” The other examples of borne+preposition are in the passive voice, but this example uses “borne” in the active voice as a transitive verb. I prefer “His wife has borne his faults….”

  • Maeve

    Precise Edit,
    Quite right. The transitive verb “bear” takes a direct object: “I have borne your faults as long as I intend to, Cal!”

    On the other hand, used intransitively in the expression “to bear with,” as in Venqax’s “bear with me,” it means, “to put up with, be patient with, make allowance for.” I think that is how Coolidge was using it.

  • venqax

    Venqax, what about the Argonauts?
    Interesting, them. They were also called Argotnauts, but I think that was just a slang name. Ba dum dum crash…

  • Dale A Wood

    Jason and the Argonauts were borne by the good ship ARGO from the Mediterranean into the Black Sea for many adventures in Greek mythology, Venqax.
    DAW

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