Sale vs Sell | Difference, Meaning & Examples

Commonly Confused Words updated on  March 1, 2024 3 min read

The difference between “sale” and “sell” is that “sale” only functions as a noun, whereas “sell” can be used as both a noun and a verb.

“Sale” primarily refers to the event of trading goods and services for money (e.g., “All my art work is for sale”).

“Sell,” on the other hand, conveys the action of exchanging goods and services for monetary payment (e.g., “I will sell you this bike”). “Sell” can also be used as a noun to refer to the act of selling something, but this is less common (e.g., “That’s a hard sell”).

Examples: Sale in a sentence

Examples: Sell in a sentence

Everything in this store is for sale.

Our goal was to sell all the chocolate bars.

I was told the dresser was not for sale.

I sell my crafts online.

We found a buyer at the antique sale.

This bakery sells the best pastries in town.

Sale definition

“Sale” (which rhymes with “nail”) always functions as a noun that refers to the transaction of trading money for items and services. However, there are a few distinctions depending on the construction of the sentence.

For example, when something is “on sale,” that means it is being sold at a discounted price. However, “for sale” simply means it’s being sold, regardless of the price.

Furthermore, the plural form of the word “sale” (i.e., “sales”) can have different uses as well. It can refer to multiple transactions (e.g., “We need to make five more sales”), but it can also refer to the department that involves the selling of goods and services (e.g., “I work in the sales department”).

Examples: Sale as a noun
The TV was on sale, so I got it for 40% off.
There were many cute trinkets for sale at the farmer’s market.
The store was ten sales short of reaching its goal.
My brother has been working in sales for over a decade.

Many people confuse the words “sale” and “sell” because of their similar meanings and pronunciations, but it’s important to remember that the words cannot be used interchangeably.

Examples: Sale or sell in a sentence
Let’s check out the sell going on in that store.
Let’s check out the sale going on in that store.

Sell definition

“Sell” (which rhymes with “well”)  can be used as a verb and a noun.

As a verb, it refers to the action of exchanging something for currency. For instance, hairdressers sell their services of cutting and styling hair in exchange for a payment. “Sell” also means to “convince or persuade someone to do or believe something.” For example, one may have to sell their boss on the idea of adding more vacation days.

“Sell” can also be used as a noun that refers to the attempt to sell something. When used in this manner, it is typically preceded by an adjective that describes the ease or difficulty of the transaction.

Examples: Sell as a verb

Examples: Sell as a noun

The kids want to sell lemonade during the summer.

The new policy was a difficult sell to the team.

I will sell my house and move to Dubai.

This product is a tough sell because of its high price.

I have to sell my husband on the idea of going to Ireland instead of Spain.

The house was an easy sell due to its recent remodeling.

For sale or for sell

The correct phrasing is “for sale,” not “for sell.”

“For sale” indicates that something is available for purchase, whereas “for sell” is simply an incorrect spelling of the phrase.

Examples: For sale or for sell
That rocking chair is not for sale.
That rocking chair is not for sell.

Do you want to know more about common mistakes, commonly confused words, or other language topics? Check out some of our other language articles full of examples and quizzes.


Idioms

Parts of speech

Fallacies

Diamond in the rough

Irregular verb

Slippery slope fallacy

Idioms

Gerund

Sunk cost fallacy

Piece of cake

Infinitive phrase

Red herring fallacy

Better late than never

Infinitive

Appeal to authority fallacy

Salt of the earth

Adverb

Circular reasoning fallacy


Frequently asked questions about sale or sell

Is it for sale or on sale?

Use “for sale” when you want to indicate that something is available for purchase (e.g., “That car in front of us is for sale”).

Use “on sale” when you want to indicate that something is being sold at a discounted price (e.g., “I only paid ten bucks for this because it was on sale”).

Are sale and sell interchangeable?

No, “sale” and “sell” are not interchangeable.

“Sale” is exclusively used as a noun that denotes the transaction of goods and services for money (e.g., “Those puppies are for sale”).

“Sell” primarily functions as a verb describing the action of trading items or services for monetary payment (e.g., “I want to sell this to the highest bidder”). However, it is sometimes used as a noun to refer to the act of selling, though this usage is less common (e.g., “That’s an easy sell”).

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Gina Rancano

Gina holds a Bachelor of Arts in English, as well as a certificate in professional and public writing from Florida International University. When she’s not writing, she spends her time reading.

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