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We can say "I want to buy a new dress", but can we say

"I want to shop a new dress" ?

What's the difference between those 2 utterances?

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  • To me "to shop" conveys the action of going to a store or searching for a thing to buy, while "to buy" just conveys purchasing something. (I am a learner though)
    – Cardinal
    Nov 16 '18 at 5:48
  • You would say "I want to shop for a new dress." which essentially means "I want to look for a new dress (in a store)." So "shop for a reason" vs. "buy something".
    – user3169
    Nov 16 '18 at 6:27
  • Shopping is a broader term which includes research, comparison, trying or you can just do window shopping. You dnt have to pay every-time when you shop . Buying means you are going to pay each time you buy.
    – ammu
    Nov 16 '18 at 8:29
  • Ok thank you for your explanation. I found a lyric in a song saying "my mother shops her part of bread". It is emotional song which tells a story about humanitarian crisis. What do you think?
    – Atika
    Nov 16 '18 at 8:38
  • That might be done by the songwriter for rhyming or alliteration schemes, "buy" may not have suited in that context for him, you should have copied more lines from the song here to get the context and not just a "pretext".
    – yeppe
    Nov 16 '18 at 10:04
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Grammatically, the main difference between the verbs 'buy' and 'shop' is that 'buy' is transitive and 'shop' is intransitive. For the purposes of this answer, I will describe a transitive verb as one that is followed by a direct object, and an intransitive verb as one that is not transitive. The differences are more nuanced than this brief description; I suggest looking elsewhere on this site, or elsewhere on the internet, for a more detailed analysis.

The upshot of this is that a transitive verb takes a direct object, so I can say:

I want to buy a dress,

but an intransitive verb does not take a direct object, so I cannot say:

I want to shop a dress.

It is more usual to say:

I want to shop for a dress.

Grammar aside, in terms of usage, 'buy' and 'shop' are sometimes used almost interchangeably (although the grammatical difference outlined above is always maintained), but there is usually a subtle distinction between them. 'Buying' generally implies a definite intent or desire to purchase something, usually something specific, provided that you find something that meets your needs and budget. 'Shopping' is less definite; the purpose of 'shopping' is to see what is available, or what is fashionable, or what is on special. 'Shopping' may result in a purchase, but not necessarily straight away. This difference is further exacerbated by that fact that you may go out to buy a specific item, but you may still 'shop around' to see if you can get it for a better price.

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  • Ok thank you for your explanation. I found a lyric in a song saying "my mother shops her part of bread". It is emotional song which tells a story about humanitarian crisis. What do you think?
    – Atika
    Nov 16 '18 at 8:43
  • That might be done by the songwriter for rhyming or alliteration schemes, "buy" may not have suited in that context for him, you should have copied more lines from the song here to get the context and not just a "pretext".
    – yeppe
    Nov 16 '18 at 10:03
  • @Atika I am not certain what is meant by 'shops' in that part of the lyric. It is possible that the writer is using 'shops' in a colloquial manner. For example, in the UK the expression 'to shop someone' means to inform on them to the police. In the US someone 'shopping an idea/product' means that they are promoting an idea or product, hoping that someone will invest in it or buy it. In that case 'shopping' is more related to selling than buying. My previous answer only relates to the more traditional notion of shopping.
    – James
    Nov 16 '18 at 17:13

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