Grammar 101 with Michael Kwan

You may have noticed that many of the most common grammatical mistakes involve homophones, or words that sound the same (or similar) but have different meanings. That’s why someone might say that they’re going to make due in the lightening storm when they should really be talking about how to make do in the lightning storm. So, if you’ll just bear with me, let’s tackle another. Or is that “bare” with me?

The correct English expression is “bear with me” and it means to ask someone to be patient with you, to tolerate you, or to indulge you for just a moment. An office clerk might ask you to bear with her as she gets her documents in order. The “bear” in “forbearance,” which refers to exercising self-control or self-restraint, is the same.

This goes back to the core meaning of the word “bear” in the first place. When we’re not talking about the large mammal roaming our temperate forests (or the silly old bear in our children’s stories), “bear” functions as a verb meaning to tolerate or to exercise patience.

By contrast, the word “bare” is most commonly used as an adjective to describe something, someone, or some part of someone that is uncovered or nude. Bare walls are devoid of decoration. George got a sunburn because he exposed his bare skin to the sun. The word “bare” can also describe something that is basic or plain, like how you might only be packing the bare essentials for an upcoming trip.

It would not make sense to ask someone to “bare with me,” unless you are asking them to be bare with you. I suppose, technically speaking, “bare with me” isn’t grammatically incorrect, because “to bare” can be be used as a verb meaning to disrobe or to uncover. That’s something that Borat might “like” because it is “very nice.”

Bruno is the one who likes to bare it all and, well, that can be too much for just about anyone to bear.