English native speakers use this phrase 'on sale', but I have never seen people use 'in sale'.

Why don't people use 'in sale' ? I want to know why they don't.


2 Answers 2


On sale is an idiom in American English that may not be more than 150 years old.Etymonline.
It is similar to the British "on offer".The Free Dictionary
Possibly the preposition on is used because vendors "put on a sale". No matter the cause of the use of on, this preposition is fixed in this usage. No other preposition will convey the correct meaning of "on sale".

  • 1
    That is to say, do even native speakers have no clue which is correct before they get to know, learn, and frequently hear what is the fixed and correct idiom? However, I suppose English natives seem to intuitively feel it natural and correct, even though not having met such an idiom before happening to encounter it. If anyone should have a reasonable knowledge on it, would you please answer this comment?
    – GKK
    Jul 26, 2018 at 21:19

"On sale" has different meaning depending on dialect. In American English, it generally seems to mean (judging by what I see from the other side of the Atlantic) that it is reduced or otherwise subject to some "special offer. In British English, it means that it is available to buy. Our equivalent to the American sense of "on sale" would be "on offer", though depending on context that can also mean "available" (not necessarily to buy).

However, there are other words or phrases we use to the same effect. "On discount" behaves similarly to the above, and then there is the adjective (or past participle) discounted.

Another one is "in a/the sale". This is because we use sale as a countable noun meaning an offering by a shop of discounts or other special offers on a range of items. Summer sale, winter sale, spring sale, Halloween sale, and so on and so forth.

On sale and on offer are set phrases. On is not taking its usual prepositional sense. Instead, the two words together are an adjective without being able to separate the two into separate meanings (although it is clearly related to the normal meanings of the two words). In the sale is a normal prepositional phrase in which the words all take independent meaning.

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