I can’t bear to toss her.

hboo

Senior Member
Chinese
Hi,

Context: in a movie scene, an old lady talks about a doll she grew up with. The doll has been sitting on her shelf forever and it’s getting old. The lady says “I can’t bear to toss her”.

The meaning of “bear” in dictionary is “suffer without complaint” so I understand better the sentence like “I can’t bear the cold weather”. Because the weather make you suffer. But why would tossing a doll make one suffer? So I wonder if “can’t bear” would by any chance mean “don’t have the courage “ or “get emotionally weak”? For example, in this context could she mean that she would be sad or even heartbroken if she threw away her entire childhood company?

Thanks.
 
  • hboo

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Yes - you have a good understanding of this expression and the idea of emotional pain suggested.
    Thanks. If someone says “I can’t bear to hear her cry”, would this mean her cry annoys me or I feel sad hearing it? Or could it be either way given a right context? Or if instead, it’s “I can’t stand to hear her cry” would this mean it annoys me given any context? I sort of have a feeling “can’t bear” could mean something nice something positive while “can’t stand” only means negative. Please correct me if I’m wrong.
     

    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    They are simply expressing emotional vulnerability and distress which might be 'good' or not so 'good'.
    A woman stabbed her husband to death because he criticized her serving a cabbage based dish to accompany prime steak for her own birthday supper. She told the police she couldn't stand his behaviour any longer. (She was keen to know if she had succeeded in killing him.)
    What, if anything, the person does, when they can't bear or stand or tolerate something is not suggested by the words themselves.

    By the way, I use these words with a noun form such as a noun or pronoun or verbal noun, not with a 'to' infinitive. I think using the infinitive might be more common in AE.
     

    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    Thanks. If someone says “I can’t bear to hear her cry”, would this mean her cry annoys me or I feel sad hearing it? Or could it be either way given a right context? Or if instead, it’s “I can’t stand to hear her cry” would this mean it annoys me given any context? I sort of have a feeling “can’t bear” could mean something nice something positive while “can’t stand” only means negative. Please correct me if I’m wrong.
    Hmm. An interesting extension. I think both types of emotional response are possible with "I can't bear hearing her cry".

    "I can't stand ... xxx " is a phrase I usually use for something that annoys me, angers me, etc rather than distresses me in the way someone else's crying might distress me.
    BUT
    I think it can be used in either case without seeming "wrong".

    @ Hermione. I saw that cabbage-side-dish murder story too. I am guessing there was a lot of "can't stand" and "can't bear" going on in that relationship for many years. The headline climactic event is almost beyond belief:
    Murder story
     
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