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“Sale” vs. “Sell” — Here’s the Difference

“Sale” vs. “Sell” — Here’s the Difference

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If you are running a business or are learning the English language, the sooner you understand the difference between the words “sale” and “sell,” the better.

Jumbling up the use of these words is a very common mistake that even native English speakers can make sometimes.

However, if you want your language to be immaculate, you must be careful not to mix these two words up.

This goes for business owners especially. Grammatical and spelling errors in your business’s publicity can damage the image of your brand. Make sure the language you’re using to promote your business is free of errors.


What is the difference between “sale” and “sell”?

“Sale” is a noun that refers to the act of giving a product or service in exchange for money; it could also refer to the number of products or services sold by an entrepreneur. Meanwhile, “sell” is the verb form of “sale”; the verb “sell” means “to give something to someone else in return for money.”


Defining “sale”

There are a few different definitions of the word “sale,” but the word is defined as a noun across all of them. Acknowledging the word as a noun and using it like one is the most important thing you want to keep in mind.

Generally, “sale” refers to the act of giving a product or service in return for money. It can be described as an event. Here are some examples of how to use the word for this meaning.

“The sale of the property was reported in the news.”


“After receiving the notice, the shop withdrew the said product from sale.”

“Sale” can also denote the monetary amount of products or services sold by a particular company. Here again, the word is used as a noun.

Sales were reported to hit an all-time high in October.”


“Even though the price was reduced, the company’s efforts failed to increase sales.”

Lastly, there is another meaning of the word “sale” and most of us are aware of it already. The word is used to refer to a period during which a shop offers products at lowered prices. 

“I will buy that pair of shoes in the next sale.”
“Christmas sales are set to commence from next week.”


Defining “sell”

Now that we’ve defined “sale” comprehensively, let’s move on to the tricker word, “sell.” This is the verb form of “sale” and most grammatical mistakes are only made when the word “sell” is associated.

You might have seen businesses and non-native speakers use “sell” instead of “sale” or vice versa. The verb “sell”, with past tense “sold” refers to transferring a product or service for money.

Here are some examples of how this word and its past tense are used correctly.

“Cartier sells luxury jewelry, sunglasses, and shoes.”


“I am going to sell the house I bought last year.”


“Father sold his old Chevrolet.”


“After we’ve sold this shop, we’re going to move to England.”

An additional meaning of the word “sell” is to promote, or encourage the sale of a particular product or service.

The dictionary defines it as to persuade someone of the merits of something. 

For instance, “The health benefits sell the superfood product.” Or, “The author’s name is the only thing that sells the book.” 

Here the word “sell” indicates that that one thing promotes or validates another. 

But that is not all, the trickiest part about using the word is yet to come. Although not as common as used as a verb, the word “sell” can also function as a noun and be grammatically correct. 

It can be argued that this is what creates the most confusion between the usages of “sale” and “sell.” Here, the noun form of “sell” refers to the product or service being sold.

For example:

“The new tables are an easy sell.”


“Because they’re not used as much in the summers, heaters are a hard sell.”

“Sell” can also refer to the person who is being convinced to buy or agree with something. For example:

“The real estate agent was a tough sell.”


“The president was a hard sell about the new bill.”


Why is it important to know the difference between “sale” and “sell”?

Even the most prestigious establishments can sometimes interchange these words.

For example, the Huffington Post, a popular American news aggregator, and blog made the same error in 2013. 

“People stuff their faces with chocolates on Valentine’s Day, which they bought for themselves on a clearance sell at CVS because no one wanted to be their Valentine five days ago.” — The Huffington Post, 20 Feb. 2013

“Downtown has a vibrancy and an inclusion that just was not there 10 years ago, she said. It has become the entertainment district and the life of the city. Once investors understand the potential of being a part of downtown, it is typically an easy sale after that, she said.” — The Times Record News (Wichita Falls, Texas), 9 Oct. 2020

It is evident that the wrong words are used in both of the examples above. Here are some more examples of how NOT to use the two words. 

“I’m saling my new PS5.” – Incorrect


“How much did you sale this for?” – Incorrect


“We are not going to sale our house.” – Incorrect

Using the right terminology is important especially if you are a business or a non-native speaker who’s looking to improve their English language.

Moreover, if you want to build a credible image of your business’s brand, you need to make sure you use perfect language. This particularly involves the correct usage of “sale” and “sell.”


“Sale” vs. “Sell”


Commonly misused variations of “sale” and “sell”

“Sale” and “sell” have a minimal phonological difference. While “sale” contains the long “a” vowel sound, “sell” has the short “e” vowel sound in the middle.

Apart from syntactic and semantic concerns, this phonological difference may also cause confusion of whether to use “sale” or “sell” in constructing sentences.

To address these issues, the subsections below aim to shed light on the most commonly confused variations to “sale” and “sell.”


“For sale” vs. “On sale”: Knowing when to use which

Both “for sale” and “on sale” are largely used in writing and speaking, although the former is more frequently used than the latter in the online corpora.

Although “for sale” and “on sale” only differ in the preposition usage, these two expressions do not necessarily mean the same.

“For sale” can be used to represent the idea that a product or service, such as a car or a training program, is being offered to potential buyers.


My dad’s 1964 Ford Ranchero is for sale. He has decided to sell it because his new apartment doesn’t have enough parking space.

However, “on sale” particularly suggests the idea that a product or service is being offered at a lower price than usual.

Or, to put it simply, “on sale” is used to entice target buyers to purchase something because of its discounted rate.


Standup comedy tickets at Live & Laugh Comedy Bar. are currently on sale for as low as $20 from $35.


“For sale” vs. “For sell”: Knowing the right choice

If you get confused as to whether “for sale” or “for sell” is the right choice, just always remember that “for sell” is never grammatical.

This means that “for sale” is always the correct option in the English language despite “for sell” being contextually understandable by any native speaker.

“For sale” simply represents the idea that a product or service is available for purchase; however, “for sell” is never used in actual communicative exchanges.

You might only encounter the use of “for sell” if the speaker or writer is deliberately intending to convey either emphasis or humor in his or her language use. 


(Grammatical) This house is for sale.


(Ungrammatical) This house is for sell.


“Sale of” vs. “Sell of” something: Knowing the right choice

In choosing between “sale of” or “sell of,” you should also go with the former expression if you do not want to cause any misinterpretation or negative reaction on your audience.

Nouns like “property,” “goods,” “service,” “assets,” or “land” are commonly used after “sale of” in sentences.

“Sale of something” is also observed more in contexts that require formal language use, such as legal documents, academic texts, and business discussions.

So, you must not expect the use of “sale of” in casual conversations.


(Grammatical) The sale of printed books is declining because of digitalization.


(Ungrammatical) The sell of printed books is declining because of digitalization.


“Deed of sale” vs. “Deed of sell”: Knowing the right choice

If you struggle between the expressions “deed of sale” and “deed of sell,” remember to always go for “deed of sale.”

A “deed of sale” is a contract that authenticates the legal purchase of a product or service done by a buyer from a seller.

This contract represents the idea that both the buyer and the seller have reached a legal and binding agreement that the purchase, for example, of a car, land, or house, is now immovable.

As legal documents normally do, a person’s possession of a “deed of sale” prevents him or her from facing legal charges like theft or robbery.


(Grammatical) The executive assistant has the deed of sale of the CEO’s newly purchased house.


(Ungrammatical) The executive assistant has the deed of sell of the CEO’s newly purchased house.


Frequently asked questions about the difference between “sale” and “sell”?


What is the correct phrase ‘to sell out’ or ‘to sale out’?

These are two of the most confused phrases. “To sell out” is the right phrase to use. “To sale out” does not make any sense because “sale” is always a noun, while “sell” is a verb. 


What are alternative words to “sale”?

“Sale” is a noun that refers to the act of selling. Some synonyms for “sale” are deal, transaction, bargain, or auction.


What are alternative words to “sell”?

“Sell” is a verb for giving something in exchange for money. Some synonyms for “sell” are vend, barter, exchange, trade, or market.