'Stear Clear' or 'Steer Clear': What's the Difference Between the Two?

By Carly Forsaith, updated on January 27, 2023

'Stear clear' or 'steer clear,' which of the two is correct? Are they interchangeable? That's what you'll find out in this article.

In short, 'stear clear' is incorrect, and 'steer clear' is the right way to spell the idiom.

What's the Difference Between 'Stear Clear' or 'Steer Clear?'

'Stear' is an incorrect spelling of the word 'steer.' Therefore, whenever you want to use the phrase 'steer clear,' you must use the spelling 'steer.'

Some people think these are homonyms, but that is not the case. Only one is grammatical.

What Does it Mean?

Steer clear is a phrasal verb, which means that the verb comprises more than one word. If you were to remove one of the words, the meaning would change.

'Steer' on its own means "control the direction of a vehicle."

'Clear' on its own is an adjective that means "not touching something, or away from something."

Put the words together, and you can begin to understand the phrase's meaning. It means controlling your direction so that you stay away from an obstacle or other harmful things.

As a phrasal verb, you can use it to talk about things other than vehicles, too. Overall, it means staying away from something harmful.

Later, we'll look at some examples of the phrase used in sentences so that you can see how to use it in context.

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce 'Steer Clear'

How do you pronounce 'steer clear'? I always like to look at the International Phonetics Alphabet spelling of words, as it helps me understand how the word should sound. If you're not familiar with the IPA and want to improve your pronunciation, it's worth checking out. Here's how the IPA spells' steer clear.'

Stɪə klɪə

But if you're not familiar with the IPA, this will give you an idea of how it's supposed to sound:


When to Use it: Examples

Now it's time to look at some examples of the phrase 'steer clear' in a sentence. Here goes:

Watch out! Steer clear of those passersby on the side of the road.

I tend to steer clear of political discussions with John as he is very sensitive about the topic.

I'm steering clear of him at the moment; I haven't entirely decided if he's a friend or foe.

We had to take a detour to steer clear of traffic, but we're back on track now.

If you're trying to lose weight, I recommend you steer clear of alcohol and sweet treats.

Final Thoughts on 'Stear Clear'

So there you have it: 'steer clear' is the only correct spelling of the phrasal verb. 'Stear clear' is never right. It's possible that the error is made so often because it's tempting to mirror the spelling of 'stear' with the spelling of 'clear.' But that's incorrect. If you do come across that spelling, don't be tempted to copy it; remember, it's a mistake.

If you'd like to learn about more confusing words like this one, head over to our blog, where we cover more each day.

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Written By:
Carly Forsaith
Carly Forsaith is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. Carly is a copywriter who has been writing about the English language for over 3 years. Before that, she was a teacher in Thailand, helping people learn English as a second language. She is a total grammar nerd and spends her time spotting language errors on signs and on the internet.

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