Comes to Bear

By Maeve Maddox

A question on an ESL forum alerted me to the expression “to come to bear.”

What is the meaning of “comes to bear” in this context:

Speaker One: I want to tell you about summer camp. It was a wonderful childhood experience.
Speaker Two: We can get to it later.
Speaker One: We can get to it now. You see, it all comes to bear.

Various possibilities were offered by other members of the forum:

It probably means “it has a bearing on (something).”

“Bear” in this sense means “produce”. A tree can bear fruit, or a woman can bear children.

“It all comes to bear” means “it all comes to fruition.”

Searching the web, I found numerous examples of “come to bear,” mostly in headlines. but sometimes in connected text.

Will FedEx pressure come to bear?

Political pressure will come to bear on US margin rules

The roles of first lady come to bear

Polar policies come to bear

On a site dedicated to the writing of business letters, I found this definition of the phrase:

Come to Bear: If something comes to bear on you, you start to feel the pressure or effect of it.

Although this definition does not explain the use of “it all comes to bear” in the quotation that started this inquiry, it does shed some light on the other uses. “Come to bear” seems to be derived from the idiom “bring to bear,” meaning “to apply (pressure) or exert (influence).”

Pressure is brought to bear. Influence and arguments are brought to bear. Then, once such things are brought to bear, the objects of the pressure, influence or arguments feel the effects. They are affected.

It seems to me that the expression “comes to bear” is a messy, obfuscating circumlocution for “affects” or some other verb.

Like passive voice, the “comes to bear” expression conceals part of the message to be conveyed. Compare:

Will FedEx pressure come to bear?
Will FedEx pressure affect the golf playoffs?

Political pressure will come to bear on US margin rules
Political pressure will affect/alter existing US margin rules

The roles of first lady come to bear
The role of First Lady affects the woman in it

“Comes to bear” is an expression that careful writers can do without.

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2 Responses to “Comes to Bear”

  • Rich Wheeler

    One sense of ‘to bear on/upon’ means to relate or be relevant to. Using ‘affect’ would not work in the first example.

    Speaker Two comments, “We can get to it later.”

    Speaker One responds, “We can get to it now. You see, it all comes to bear.”

    Why does each state such an opinions? Apparently, Speaker Two felt that the subject of summer camp was irrelevant at the moment. Speaker One, however, points out that it IS relevant to — it comes to bear upon — the subject of the conversation.

    This usage bears (carries) a further shade of meaning: Whereas a word such as ‘affects’ implies an immediate effect, in ‘comes to bear,’ ‘comes to’ implies a more gradual process.

    It’s like the difference between (a) an asteroid BAM! slamming into Earth and (b) Earth’s gravity gently pulling the same asteroid out of its path and drawing it with growing force toward a remote region of the Pacific Ocean. In the first case, the asteroid impacts the earth. In the second, it comes to bear on the earth.

    Although ‘comes to bear’ is ambiguous in the short quotation, in a longer context, it should become clear. In technical or business writing, we would use a more specific phrase such as “will relate to the topic” or “will affect our decision.” However, in prose, we prefer to paint pictures and draw out emotions with more colorful terms such as “comes to bear.”

    By the way, Maeve Maddox makes a very sharp observation in closing. “Like passive voice, the ‘comes to bear’ expression conceals part of the message to be conveyed.”

  • Shing

    You got it ALL wrong. ‘Comes to bear” means “being one of the reasons for” blah blah.

    Comes to bear in this cases means something Happening depended on something else.

    For example. You being late for work happened because there was a lot of traffic on the highway. And the traffic was because there was an accident on the highway.

    More examples::
    It comes to bear that someone causing an accident caused you to be late for work.

    It comes to bear that someone who didn’t have enough sleep caused you to be chewed out by your boss.
    Not enough sleep -> car accident -> traffic -> you are late -> being chewed.

    The analogy is a hanging fruit depended on the small branch, which depended on the big branch, which depended on the main branch, which…..

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