It can be hard to know when to use the word "sale" and when to use the word "sell." Using it in writing, in a client pitch or while on the phone with potential clients can be confusing. However, knowing the difference between the two similar-sounding words can be important on many levels.

Why "Sale" and "Sell" Are Important

These two words are often mixed up at the spur of the moment but can make a lasting impression. When selling a product, good grammar can help you seal the deal. When giving a presentation about a product or brand, correct usage, pronunciation and grammar can instill confidence in the consumer.

"Sell" in Action

The word "sell" is a verb. It indicates an action. It requires conjugation, such as “I sell,” “you sell” and “he or she sells.” For past tense, it would be “I sold,” “they sold” and “he or she sold.” These are usually followed with a definite or indefinite article to further describe the item or event.

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"Sale" Stands Alone

The word sale is a noun. It means the product is for sale or that an item or group of items are offered at a discount price. It does not need conjugation in any form. If something is for sale, it is available to clients and consumers. It usually makes an appearance in a sentence with a definite or indefinite article, such as “the,” “for” or “a.”

The Difference Between "Sale" and "Sell"

It’s subtle in sound but significant in its modifications. The difference between "sale" and "sell" can be hard to discern. Following are a few examples of how to use "sell" or "sale" in a sentence:

He put the item up for sale on an online auction site.
The item is for sale at the outlet store.
He hopes to sell the item at a garage sale.
She wanted to sell the item online.

Pronunciation Considerations for "Sale" vs. "Sell"

When listening to consumers, clients, supervisors or presentations, it can be hard to hear the subtle difference between "sale" and "sell." The vowel sound is a long “a” in “sale” and a soft “e” in “sell.” It can be tricky to distinguish between the two when they are being pronounced. They are basically pronounced in the same place within the mouth. However, the tongue extension is slightly different between the two words. The long "a" tongue is much tenser than what is used for the short "e" sound, where the tongue should be relaxed to get the correct sound. If you are having a hard time pronouncing the words, relax your whole tongue and neck. Try saying the letter “a” in “sale” and keep your tongue in the same place while relaxing it. This should give a soft “e” sound that will correctly pronounce the word “sell.”

Why Proper Grammar Is Important

Grammar is the foundation for communicating well. It can be tricky for students who are just beginning to navigate the groundwork of good grammar and those who are learning a language other than their native tongue. However, using correct grammar in speech and in writing shows care and a mastery of the language.

When working in sales, marketing or other product-related industries, having a good grasp of grammar can play a part in how others view the product. As a brand ambassador of merchandise or a business, your grammar will reflect on the perception a client will have about the product or company. If you are unsure of the word in the context in which you are using it, you can easily check words online for spelling, usage and correct pronunciation.

About the Author

Kimberley McGee is an award-winning journalist with 20+ years of experience writing about education, jobs, business trends and more for The New York Times, Las Vegas Review-Journal, Today’s Parent and other publications. She graduated with a B.A. in Journalism from UNLV. Her full bio and clips can be seen at www.vegaswriter.com.