Word Confusion: Sale versus Sell

Posted December 16, 2013 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

Revised as of 10 October 2017

I noticed “Sale versus Sell” was in the queue, and thought, ’tis the season… And since everyone is running around looking for sales, hoping that the people selling know their product, it seemed appropriate that the writers amongst us know their product as well.

Keep in mind that a sale and sell are not the same. The sale is a noun in which selling, a verb, is occurring.

So here’s hopin’ that y’all find some great sales and not have to sell anything to buy that special something for your loved ones this Christmas.

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end.

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Sale Sell
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com

“Buy-Sell Green” courtesy of This Olde House

Kind of a modern looking farmhouse up for sale there.

“Writing Screenplays That Sell” courtesy of The Writers Store

Part of Grammar:
Plural: sales
Verb, intransitive & transitive 1

Plural for the noun andthird person present verb: sells
Past tense or past participle: sold
Gerund or present participle: selling

Exchange of a commodity for money

Action of selling something

  • [Sales] A quantity or amount sold
  • [Sales] The activity or business of selling products

An event for the rapid disposal of goods at reduced prices for a period, especially at the end of a season

  • [Often with modifier] A public or charitable event at which goods are sold
  • A public auction
[Informal] An act of selling or attempting to sell something

[Informal] A disappointment, typically one arising from being deceived as to the merits of something

[Stock Exchange] A security to be sold

[Informal] A cheat

  • Hoax

Verb, intransitive:
Give or hand over something in exchange for money

  • [Of a thing] Be purchased
  • [Sell for/at] Be available for sale at a specified price
  • [Sell out] Sell all of one’s stock of something
  • [Sell out] Be all sold
  • [Sell through (of a product)] Be purchased by a customer from a retail outlet
  • [Sell up) sell all of one’s property, possessions, or assets
  • [Sell out] Abandon one’s principles for reasons of expedience

Verb, transitive:
Give or hand over something in exchange for money

  • Have a stock of something available for sale
  • [Of a publication or recording] Attain sales of a specified number of copies
  • [Sell oneself] Have sex in exchange for money
  • [Archaic] Offer something dishonorably for money or other reward; make a matter of corrupt bargaining
  • [Sell someone out] Betray someone for one’s own financial or material benefit

Persuade someone of the merits of

  • Be the reason for something being bought
  • Cause someone to become enthusiastic about

[Archaic] Trick or deceive someone

We withdrew it from sale.

The sale has fallen through.

Price cuts failed to boost sales.

John got promoted to director of sales and marketing.

It was a clearance sale to end all sales.
On sale now!

Tickets go on sale next week.

Yeah, Paul is offering his Mustang for sale.

The excitement of scientific achievement is too subtle a sell to stir the public.

Actually, Hawaii’s a bit of a sell.

Be careful scooping up Treasurys for fear of a sharp sell-off that could drive yields precipitously higher.

Put in a sell order now.

Verb, intransitive:
This magazine of yours won’t sell.

The album sold 6 million copies in the U.S.

These antiques sell for about $375.

They had nearly sold out of the initial run of 75,000 copies.

It was clear that the performances would not sell out.

Ernest sold up and retired.

The prime minister has come under fire for selling out to the U.S.

Verb, transitive:
They had sold the car.

The family business had been sold off.

I was trying to sell him my butterfly collection.

The store sells hi-fis, TVs, videos, and other electrical goods.

If she was going to sell herself then it would be as well not to come too cheap.

Do not your lawyers sell all their practice, as your priests their prayers?

The clansmen became tenants, and the chiefs sold them out.

He sold the idea of making a film about Tchaikovsky.

He could get work, but he just won’t sell himself.

What sells CDs to most people is convenience.

I’m just not sold on the idea.

What we want is to go out of here quiet, talk this show up, and sell the rest of the town.

He sold his soul to the Devil.

Noun: intersale, nonsale, subsale Adjective: sellable
History of the Word:
Late Old English sala from the Old Norse sala is of Germanic origin. 1 Old English sellan is of Germanic origin and related to the Old Norse selja, meaning give up, sell. Early use included the sense give, hand (something) over voluntarily in response to a request.

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves? Also, please note that I try to be as accurate as I can, but mistakes happen or I miss something. Email me if you find errors, so I can fix them…and we’ll all benefit!

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Pinterest Photo Credits:

Garage Sale Sign, Ferndale, California, by Ellin Beltz and Dusty Groove Garage Sale 2013 by Dusty Groove are their own individual works; both are under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons.