Bare or Bear With Me?

By Maeve Maddox

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Commonly seen on the Web is the misspelled phrase “bare with me.” The correct expression is “bear with me.” It means, “be patient with me.”

One of the many meanings of the verb “to bear” is “to tolerate.” The verb bare, on the other hand, means “to reveal” or “to uncover.” For example, “Do not bare your navel in public.”

It’s not unusual to find “bear with me” spelled incorrectly in discussions of domestic problems:

I know it’s long, but please bare with me, I’m in desperate need of advice.

I’m having trouble putting my thoughts into words so you will have to bare with me through this.

After all, people suffering emotional pain are not immediately concerned with correct usage or concise writing even when they are capable of it.

It’s a little more surprising to find “bare with me” in the published transcripts of the minutes of government agencies and professional associations:

It’s been a long day people. Please bare with me. (Minutes of a government committee hearing)

Dr Kaul added that the partners are actively working together to appoint GPs, [and] asked that patients bare with them… (Minutes of a medical practice)

Our new webpage is currently under construction so bare with us while we fix up the bugs. (University website)

I just typed all of this up in a matter of minutes. So bare with me with the grammatical errors and what not. lol. (Report published on what seems to be a commercial site)

The amended language is not yet available…. So please bare with us a little longer. (Home owners’ association site)

Most surprising is to find “bare with me” in a news article:

He [Councillor Tim Crumpton] said: “I know car parking is causing a problem and I would ask people to bare with us.” (The Worcester News)

Beware of bare. Unless you’re inviting someone to play strip poker with you, don’t write the phrase “bare with me.” The correct version is bear with me.

Other Uses of the Word “Bear”

Other than in the phrase “bear with me”, there are some other uses of the word “bear” that you might well have come across:

To hold up or support, as in “bear the weight of”.

Example: “The walls must bear the weight of the roof.”

To tend toward or move in a particular direction.

Example: “Walk for about half a mile, then bear left at the fork in the path.”

To put weight or pressure onto something, as in “bear down”:

Example: “If we want to win this match, we must bear down.”

Why Do People Get “Bear With Me” Wrong?

The words bear and bare are homonyms (and homophones) – words that are pronounced the same way but that have different meanings, and different spellings.

Some people may well have heard the phrase “bear with me”, especially as it’s one often used in casual conversation, without ever seeing it written down.

Plus, it’s quite likely that people will have (at least sometimes) seen it written incorrectly! Just take a look at the examples above of the erroneous uses of “bare with me” by writers who meant “bear with me” – some of these are from publications or websites that readers would have expected to get things right.

If you’re concerned that you’re getting other homonyms wrong, check out this handy list here of 25 easily confused homonym pairs.

What Alternatives Are There to “Bear With Me”?

Sometimes, a good solution to a confusing phrase is to pick a different one! If you want an alternative to “bear with me”, here are a couple of phrases that you could use to mean the same thing:

“Give me a moment”

e.g. “Bear with me while I find the document” could become “Give me a moment while I find the document.”

“Thanks for your patience”

e.g. “Bear with us while the website revamp is in progress” could become “Thanks for your patience while the website revamp is in progress.”

“Stay with me”

e.g. “Bear with me while I explain” could become “Stay with me while I explain.”

It’s also worth considering whether you’re using “bear with me” (or a similar phrase) to cover for bigger picture issues with your writing.

For instance, if you ask someone to “bear with me while I get to the point” in an article or blog post, then perhaps the real issue isn’t the spelling of bear/bare but the structure of your piece. Cutting out unnecessary tangents could make a pre-emptive “bear with me” unnecessary.

There’s nothing wrong with the phrase “bear with me”, though, if it’s needed.

Just remember: it’s only “bare with me” if you’re asking someone to get bare with you (probably best reserved for significant others and/or games of strip poker), or if you’re going makeup shopping.

Bare or Bear With Me Quiz

For each sentence, choose the correct version of bear/bare.

  • 1. [Bear/bare] with me while I look up your file.

    bear
    bare
  • 2. Our new store is coming soon! [Bear/bare] with us while we get everything ready.

    bare
    bear

  • 3. Fancy getting [bear/bare] with me tonight?

    bare
    bear
  • 4. I’ve got several points to cover, so [bear/bare] with me.

    bear
    bare

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8 Responses to “Bare or Bear With Me?”

  • Roberta B.

    That’s hilarious! I couldn’t get rid of the image in my mind of all these folks getting naked (i.e., baring themselves) with each other. For the example which said, “So bare with me with the grammatical errors and what not. lol,” was that a “commercial” site or a “comical” site? (I seem to find myself transposing letters in those two words!) LOL

  • George Bunzi

    This is great! Just can’t stop chuckling on the image of naked folks!

  • Xcom

    “Bare with me” is known to have been used on purpose on a nudist website!

  • XirmiX

    I can’t stand the fact that it’s “bear with me” and not “bare with me”. It irritate my noggin because the word “bear” makes you think of the animal bear. “Bare with me” isn’t so irritating at least, even though the word “bare” is commonly related to being naked.

  • Dale A. Wood

    This was posted on the front door of a snack shop in San Diego:

    “We are taking a brake.
    Please bare with us.”

  • Walter Burien

    Well, I see most do not know the origin of “Bear with me”

    So, here it is:

    Back in the 1700’s when the USA was being settled, there were millions of Bears from what is now Florida to Maine and from New Jersey to California.

    Well, all knew that when confronted by a bear, do not run (if you did, your dead. It would trigger an attack), play dead, you are not on its food chain, it would loose interest, and walk away.

    So, the expression became very popular back then when someone wanted someone else to do something, they would respond: “Bear with me” which meant there is a Bear with me, you are going to have to wait.

    Well, the expression maintained its popularity also in the 1800’s, but then come the 1900’s and the expansion that took place in the USA, 80% + of the bears were killed off, the industrial revolution centered the majority of the people in the cities were there were no bears, and after a few generations come the 1950’s and 1960’s, people kept using the popular expression but had forgotten what it actually meant: There was a “Bear with me” you are going to have to wait.

    And as Paul Harvey use to say: “And now you know the rest of the story”

  • Maeve

    Walter,
    Are you by any chance the person who made up the silly definitions for “throw the baby out with the bathwater” and “raining cats and dogs” that occasionally make the rounds on the internet?

    The word “bear” in the expression “bear with me” has nothing to do with the furry critters.
    to bear with: to put up with, be patient with, make allowance for. (OED)

  • BigBikeFan

    Walter Burien, what’s the story behind the aforementioned by Maeve phrase, involving our little friends on a rainy day?

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