Too Much to Bear or Bare – Which is the Correct Spelling?

Homophones are words that mean two different things, even though they sound the same when spoken aloud. English has many homophones, like hare and hair, wear and ware, and bear and bare.

These words can even change the meanings of entire phrases when used incorrectly. The difference between too much to bear and too much to bare comes down to a simple spelling error, but the meanings of each phrase are entirely different.

What is the Difference Between Too Much to Bear and Too Much to Bare?

I will discuss the differences between too much to bare vs. too much to bear in this article. I will also use each of these phrases in a few example sentences, so you can see them in context.

Plus, I will demonstrate a memory trick that makes remembering whether to use too much to bare or bear easier.

When to Use Too Much to Bear

Definition of too much to bare definitionWhat does too much to bear mean? Too much to bear is a phrase that means to the point of excess. In this case, the infinitive to bear means to carry or endure.

A writer might use too much to bear when describing something that he lacks the capacity to handle or when he is overwhelmed.

For example,

  • Sheila put up with Damian’s immaturity for as long as she could, but she considered his infidelity too much to bear.
  • “This workload is too much to bear without hiring more mechanics,” said the shop owner.

When to Use Too Much to Bare

Define too much to bearWhat does too much to bare mean? Too much to bare is sometimes confused with too much to bear, since bear and bare are homophones.

As verbs, however, bare and bear have different meanings.

Bare means to expose something. A wolf might bare its teeth in a threatening display, for instance, or a man might bare his chest when he goes swimming.

Therefore, too much to bare has an entirely different literal meaning than too much to bear. It would refer to excessive exposure rather than excessive burdens.

Here are some hypothetical examples:

  • The actress looked at her new evening gown in the mirror and thought, “that is too much to bare at the Oscars.”
  • An inch is too much to bare when stripping the insulation from copper wiring; a strong connection usually only requires ¼ inch of exposed wire or less.

Trick to Remember the Difference

Too much to bare or bearIf you are using the fixed phrase to refer to an excessive burden, always use too much to bear. Too much to bare is usually a mistake based on the homophones bare and bear.

Too much to bear vs. Too much to bare: Remember that bear means to carry or endure as a verb, so substitute too much to endure in your mind when want to use this phrase as a reminder to use bear instead of bare.

Another commonly confused phrase is bear with me. For a full discussion, see here.

Summary

Is it too much to bear or bare? Too much to bear means something one cannot endure because it is excessive. Too much to bare is a common mistake based on the homophones bare and bear.

In summary, use too much to bear when you are using this idiom.

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