Like other homophone pairs, baring and bearing sound the same but have different meanings.
And like many homophones, they’re often confused with each other.
Fortunately, we have a few tricks to share to help you tell them apart.
To know whether bearing or baring is the right word for a specific context, you need to understand clearly what each word means.
- Baring vs. Bearing: What Is the Difference
- Baring or Bearing or Barring? 7 Examples of How to Use These Words
Baring vs. Bearing: What Is the Difference
The dictionary seems like a good place to start for definitions. That said, the entries for both words (especially bearing) are pretty long.
Here’s a condensed version:
Bearing — as a noun:
- 1. “an object that reduces friction between moving parts” (like a “ball bearing’)
- 2. “The way in which a person moves, stands, or behaves”
- 3. “Relation or connection” — Ex: “Her argument had no bearing on their decision.”
- 4. “A determination of position” — Ex: “I lost my bearings and didn’t know where to turn.”
Bearing — as the present participle of to bear (v):
- 1. To carry/hold
- 2. To endure
- 3. To give birth
- 4. To gain ground
- 5. To have influence
The other word, “baring,” has fewer uses, both of which are very different from the possible meanings for “bearing.”
Baring — as the present participle of to bare (v):
- 1. To make or leave bare / to uncover or reveal
- 2. To expose/leave open to scrutiny
Now that you know the difference, it’s easier to see whether bearing gifts or baring gifts is the right expression to use.
Before we move on, let’s throw in another word just to make this more fun: barring, which is similar to baring but with an extra r. It doesn’t sound like either bearing or baring, but it looks similar enough to one of them to cause confusion.
Let’s define this one, too.
Barring — present participle of to bar (v):
- Excepting / Without — “Barring a miracle, there’s no way we’ll be able to save enough for a trip to Peru this year.”
- Preventing / Excluding — “They’re barring him from joining the team because of his behavior at the party.”
Picture a bar — or barrier — in the way of doing something you or someone else wants to do.
Baring or Bearing or Barring? 7 Examples of How to Use These Words
Read through the following examples to see when to use baring vs. bearing or baring vs. barring. It gets easier with practice.
Example #1: Bearing Children vs. Baring Children
Bearing children means not only carrying them to term but giving birth to them.
Baring children implies you’re uncovering them or leaving them bare (i.e., naked) and/or exposed.
Barring children implies blocking, excepting, or preventing them from doing something, and the context should provide clues to support this.
- Incorrect: “She decided against baring children.” (generally a positive decision)
- Correct: “She decided against bearing children.” (morally neutral but less socially acceptable than not baring them).
- Incorrect: “She decided against barring children.” (from what?)
- Correct: “She agreed barring children from the event was in their best interests.”
Example #2: Bearing Gifts vs. Baring Gifts
With the words “bearing gifts,” it’s not hard to picture someone carrying neatly-wrapped presents in their arms. The expression, “I come bearing gifts,” implies you’ve arrived in possession of something you know the other person wants.
But if you’re baring your gifts (i.e., exposing them), the mental image is very different. Because depending on the gifts you have in mind, baring implies you’re revealing them, uncovering them, or exposing them to others. And that can have consequences.
- Probably incorrect: “She came baring gifts for everyone at the party.”
- Correct: “She came bearing gifts for everyone at the party.”
Example #3: Baring It All
If you “bare it all,” whatever you reveal is “laid bare.”
On the other hand, if you “bear it all,” you’re enduring or carrying the weight of it all, which can eventually become unbearable.
- Incorrect: “There he was, bearing it all, and it wasn’t even noon!”
- Correct: “There he stood, bearing (the weight of) it all, and I wanted more than anything to share that load with him.”
- Correct; “There he was, baring it all, and it wasn’t even noon!”
Barring it all doesn’t make sense unless you’re preventing “it all” from doing something or blocking its admission to something.
Even then, “barring it all” looks like a typo and sounds worse.
Example #4: Baring Your Soul
You can bare your soul by laying your thoughts bare before others. You’re essentially exposing your soul to someone else’s scrutiny, which involves the risk of rejection or criticism (or both).
Bearing your soul has a different meaning. Try any of the definitions offered above, and none of them really make sense. You don’t really carry your soul — or endure it — or give birth to it.
Barring your soul doesn’t make sense, either. You’re not excepting it or preventing it from doing something.
- Incorrect: “He stood there, barring his soul before the council.”
- Incorrect: “He stood there, bearing his soul before the council.”
- Correct: “He stood there, baring his soul before the council.”
Example #5: Bearing Down
You’ll often see this expression in relation to a woman in labor, focusing her energy on pushing her baby out the birth canal.
She doesn’t “bare down,” which makes no sense. Nor is she “barring down,” which isn’t a thing, either.
- Incorrect: “She was baring down. It wouldn’t be long now… “
- Incorrect: “She was barring down. It wouldn’t be long now… “
- Correct: “She was bearing down. It wouldn’t be long now before her child was born.”
Another use for “bearing down” relates to pursuit. If one horse is bearing down on another in a race, it’s catching up and about to overtake them.
More Related Articles
Example #6: Baring Your Teeth vs. Bearing Your Teeth
An animal baring its teeth reveals them in an open sign of aggression. You probably won’t use this expression to mean smiling in a friendly way. You might bare your teeth in a menacing grin. Or you might see an animal baring its teeth and know you’re in trouble.
Bearing your teeth implies you’re carrying them — or enduring them — or giving birth to them, among other possible meanings, none of which make sense. Let’s hope you’re not actually carrying your teeth rather than wearing them in your mouth.
Barring your teeth doesn’t make sense, either, unless you’re preventing your teeth (or someone else’s) from doing something. For example, “He muzzled the dog, barring its teeth from doing any harm.”
- Incorrect: “She could see the animal bearing its teeth and left the cage door locked.”
- Incorrect: “She could see the animal barring its teeth and left the cage door locked.”
- Correct: “She could see the animal baring its teeth and left the cage door locked.”
Example #7: Baring vs. Barring
Baring and barring are two very different words, as you’ve already seen from their definitions. The only similarity is the closeness of their spelling, the only difference being the extra r in barring.
The tricky thing here is that tools like spell check and Grammarly might miss a mistaken use of baring or barring because both are real words.
Even the best editing tools can miss context clues, which is why it still makes sense to read your work carefully before shipping it.
- Incorrect: “He stood there, baring entry to all whose names were not on the list.” — It doesn’t make sense to “bare entry.” He’s not revealing the entry; he’s blocking entry or preventing uninvited people from entering the premises.
- Correct: “He stood there, barring entry to all whose names were not on the list.”
- Incorrect: “Seeing his reaction, she decided against barring her soul to him.” — She’s not excluding her soul or preventing her soul from doing something; she’s deciding against revealing her soul or exposing her innermost thoughts to him.
- Correct; “Seeing his reaction, she decided against baring her soul to him.”
Now that you’re familiar with bearing vs. baring vs. barring, what tips have you found most helpful? And what are you most likely to remember a year from now?