Which Is Correct: Barefoot or Barefeet? – Strategies for Parents

Which Is Correct: Barefoot or Barefeet?

Summer is finally here, and that means that you’re probably spending a lot more time without shoes. But what is the correct word to describe this situation? Is it “barefoot” or “barefeet”?

The correct spelling is “barefoot” because it is an adjective, and the word “barefeet,” as a closed compound, doesn’t exist in English. Instead, we would write, “bare feet.” “Barefoot” is a closed compound word that follows all of the same rules that apply to other adjectives.

Let’s take a deeper look at why “barefoot” is correct, along with some of the common mistakes that people make when they use “barefoot” in English. 

Why Is “Barefoot” Correct?

“Barefoot” is correct because Merriam-Webster recognizes it as a closed compound word. When deciding whether two words can function as a closed compound, most academic style guides recommend going by Merriam-Webster as the standard.

“Barefoot” Is an Adjective

The word “barefoot” is an adjective in its own right. It looks different from other adjectives because we’ve taken it from the Germanic roots of Old English (source). The word “barefoot” follows the structure of a Germanic adjective, where it looks similar to an adjective plus an irregular noun.

However, even though the word “barefoot” looks like an adjective and a noun together, it is an adjective only! As such, you should always use the word “barefoot” as an adjective in English.

“Barefeet” Is Not a Word

Again, in the English language, there’s no such word as “barefeet.” While it might seem logical to have “barefeet” as the plural of “barefoot,” it doesn’t exist. 

This is because, in English, adjectives don’t change according to the number of the noun that they describe (source). For example, you don’t change the adjective “black” when you’re referring to one black cat or 15 black cats. The adjective doesn’t change based on whether the noun is singular or plural.

Since “barefoot” is an adjective, it doesn’t change based on the noun that it describes. That’s why there’s no such word as “barefeet” in English. 

“Bare Feet” Is an Adjective + Noun

In contrast, if you separate the words “bare” and “feet,” you have an adjective and a noun. This is a correct structure in English, and you can use “bare feet” as a subject or an object as you’re writing. Take a look at these examples, and see how “bare feet” compares to “barefoot.”

Bare + Feet = Adjective + NounBarefoot = Adjective
Janice loves walking with bare feet on the beach because she likes how the sand feels between her toes.Janice loves walking barefoot on the beach because she likes how the sand feels between her toes. 
I prefer to clean the house in bare feet because I hate when my shoes or socks get dirty.I prefer to clean the house barefoot because I hate when my shoes or socks get dirty.
The children ran up and down the street in their bare feet.The barefoot children ran up and down the street. 

“Bare feet” is one of those tricky spelling situations that depend on whether you want to use an adjective or a noun along with an adjective. You can check out the spelling of other adjectives with similar patterns, such as “nighttime” and “night time” or “hometown” and “home town.”

“Bare” Is an Adjective

The word “bare,” spelled with the “a” in the middle of the word and the silent “e” at the end, is an adjective that means “naked” or “uncovered.” 

“Bare” is a word that appears in many English expressions, which we explain here:

ExpressionDefinitionExample
With one’s bare handsWithout help from a machine or toolThe hero killed the lion with his bare hands; he didn’t need a weapon.
Bare-bonesMeager; it might not be enoughThe meal seemed to be bare-bones; I wasn’t sure that there was enough food for everyone at the table.
Bare minimumJust enough; only what is necessary and no moreHe did the bare minimum on the assignment, so he didn’t get a very good grade.
Bare necessitiesOnly the things that you absolutely needShe couldn’t bring a suitcase, so she had to fit only the bare necessities into her backpack.
To bare one’s teethTo scowl or growl in a way that shows the teeth; usually referring to animalsDogs will usually bare their teeth and growl when they feel threatened or scared.
To lay (something) bareTo make something obviousMy article will lay bare all of the details of the scandal and the government’s corruption will be obvious to everyone.
To be laid bareTo be exposedThe newspaper article gave all of the details of the scandal and laid bare the government’s corruption

With these phrases and expressions, you’ll be able to use the adjective “bare” like a native speaker!

“Barely” Is an Adverb

You will probably hear the adverb “barely” a lot if you’re talking with native English speakers. The adverb “barely” means “just enough” or “with only the necessary amount and no more.” 

For example, if you barely passed your statistics class, this means that you got a grade that was almost failing. Perhaps you only passed with one or two points to spare — you passed the class with the lowest grade possible.

Or, if you barely have enough fuel to get home, you might be worried about whether or not you’ll arrive home safely. If you’ll barely get home with the fuel in your tank, then it’s time to go to the gas station and fill up!

Sometimes, people use “barely” in an ironic or sarcastic way. For example, they say it as a response to a statement or judgment that they don’t really agree with, even if it is true. For instance, take a look at this exchange:

Harry:    Wow! Our school’s football team has improved a lot since last year!

Mike:     Barely! They were at the bottom of the league last year, but they’re not doing much better this year.

Harry:    I mean, at least they’re not the worst team in the league this year.

Mike:    That may be true, but there’s only one team that’s below them in the ranking! Being the second-worst is barely better than being the worst.

Here, you can see how Mike accepts the truth of Harry’s statement at face value, even though he doesn’t see much improvement in the football team. He uses “barely” as an interjection to show that he sort of disagrees.

“Bear” Is a Verb

The word “bear” is a verb that means “to carry” or “to endure.” It often has a negative connotation and gives an image of difficulty or suffering. For example, an old shelf might break when you add heavy items because it can’t bear the weight. It’s weak, and it collapses with all of the extra pressure that it cannot bear.

A popular expression with the verb “to bear” is “can’t bear the thought of something.” This phrase expresses a very stressful situation; in fact, it is so stressful that even thinking about the problem is difficult to endure.

For instance, most parents can’t bear the thought of losing their children. Or a lover might say that he couldn’t bear the thought of life without you. In these examples, you can see how “can’t bear the thought of” expresses a stressful or painful hypothetical situation. 

You’ve almost certainly seen this verb in the passive form, “to be born.” In the active form, you can say, “The mother bears a child” or “The mother bore a child.” You can see from this past tense example that “to bear” is an irregular verb.

We say “to be born” because, when a baby is born, the mother has carried the baby and endured the pain of labor and delivery. Many languages express this same idea with an active verb, but in English, we use “to be” plus the past participle as the passive voice.

Bear With Me

A popular English expression that uses the verb “to bear” is the imperative phrase “bear with me.” 

You can use the phrase “bear with me” right before explaining a complicated idea or a long story. It’s basically asking the listener to endure the details of your explanation so that they can finally see the bigger picture of what you’re saying. Here’s an example:

Grandpa:    Have I ever told you about the time I traveled to Thailand 20 years ago?

Grandson:    No, it sounds like an exciting adventure!

Grandpa:    Well, there were a lot of things that led up to that amazing trip.

Grandson:     Please, just tell me the exciting parts of the story.

Grandpa:    No, I’ll tell you all of the details from the very beginning. Bear with me because I think you’ll like all of the little misadventures that I had along the way!

“Bear” Is Also an Animal

In addition to being a verb, the word “bear” also refers to a family of mammals that walk on four big paws, are covered in fur, and have a very short tail.

However, it’s easy to confuse “bear” and “bare” because they sound exactly the same when you pronounce them, even though you spell them differently. We call words that we spell differently but that have the same pronunciation homophones (source). 

Image by mana5280 via Unsplash

Frequently Confused With “Barefoot”

Here are some of the most common mistakes that people make when it comes to using the word “barefoot.” Take a look and see how you can correct all your errors with this compound adjective! 

Which Is Correct: Barefoot or Barefooted?

Both “barefoot” and “barefooted” are correct. They are both adjectives, and they both have exactly the same meaning: without shoes or with naked feet. 

“Barefooted” looks more like a past participle of a regular verb, which is why many English language learners and young children use this form of the adjective. With the -ed ending, it’s clear to see how we can easily identify this word as a past participle acting as an adjective.

How Do You Use Barefooted in a Sentence?

In short, you can use “barefooted” exactly the same way that you would use “barefoot” in a sentence. “Barefooted” is an adjective that major English language dictionaries like Merriam-Webster accept as a variant spelling. However, you should keep in mind that “barefooted” is not as popular or common a word as “barefoot.”

Which Is Correct: Barefoot or Bearfoot?

The correct spelling is “barefoot.” This adjective is a compound word that combines two different words to create a new word. The word “bare” means “naked” or “uncovered.” So, when you use the word “barefoot,” you’re referring to a foot that doesn’t have a shoe.

The word “bearfoot” doesn’t exist, but it is a very common spelling mistake. This is because the words “bare” and “bear” are homonyms: they sound exactly the same when you pronounce them, even though they have different spellings. 

What Is the Meaning of Bear Feet?

“Bear feet” is a noun construct that describes the feet of a bear. We often call these paws, and there are probably a very limited number of situations when you’re writing about the literal feet of a bear. That’s why you should be careful when spelling these homophones!

Is Barefeet a Word?

Again, in English, “barefeet” is not a word. However, you can use the phrase “bare feet” as an adjective plus a noun to describe feet that are naked or uncovered. 

The space between “bare” and “feet” is crucial because it shows your reader that you are using an adjective and a noun instead of just an adjective. Without that space, your sentence would be missing a necessary subject or object.

What Is the Meaning of Barefeet?

The word “barefeet” doesn’t have a definition because it is not a word in English. However, if someone were to use the word “barefeet” in a sentence, you could easily assume that they meant “barefoot.” This article was written for strategiesforparents.com.

“Barefeet,” even though it’s not a real word in English, can mean “without shoes” or “with naked feet,” especially if you hear it from a young child or someone who is learning English as a foreign or second language.

Image by analogicus via Pixabay

Final Thoughts

Many often confuse the adjective “barefoot” with the adjective and noun phrase “bare feet.” It’s important to remember the spellings and spacing of these words because if you add the wrong vowels or the wrong spaces, you’ll be missing key parts of your sentence.

Dr. Patrick Capriola

Dr. Patrick Capriola is the founder of strategiesforparents.com. He is an expert in parenting, social-emotional development, academic growth, dropout prevention, educator professional development, and navigating the school system. He earned his Doctorate in Educational Leadership from the University of Florida in 2014. His professional experience includes serving as a classroom teacher, a student behavior specialist, a school administrator, and a coordinator of educator training at UF - providing professional development to school administrators and teachers, helping them learn to meet the academic and social-emotional needs of students. He is focused on growing strategiesforparents.com into a leading source for high-quality research-based content to help parents work through the challenges of raising a family and progressing through the school system.

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