0

sell is used both as intransitive and transitive verb. Sometimes the line between the two usages seems vague to me since I haven't found the exact grammar(or usage) rules. My rule of thumb says (B) is not acceptable, but I don't know why.

  • (A) A neighbor drops by and starts telling you both about the terrific new wines being sold at the liquor store just down the street.

  • (B) A neighbor drops by and starts telling you both about the terrific new wines selling at the liquor store just down the street.

Psychological research has shown that people naturally divide up cognitive labor, often without thinking about it. Imagine you’re cooking up a special dinner with a friend. You’re a great cook, but your friend is the wine expert, an amateur sommelier. A neighbor drops by and starts telling you both about the terrific new wines being sold at the liquor store just down the street. There are many new wines, so there’s a lot to remember. How hard are you going to try to remember what the neighbor has to say about which wines to buy? Why bother when the information would be better retained by the wine expert sitting next to you? If your friend wasn’t around, you might try harder. After all, it would be good to know what a good wine would be for the evening’s festivities. But your friend, the wine expert, is likely to remember the information without even trying.

The Knowledge Illusion: Why We Never Think Alone

2
  • 1
    Both are correct. Where I live (USA, South) the first sentence is preferable. Jan 12 at 18:26
  • 1
    Usually "B" would be a little more defined... "...terrific new wines they are selling at the liquor store...". Also from the USA but in the North, I wouldn't hear (B) spoken without that part...
    – Ron Beyer
    Jan 12 at 18:39

1 Answer 1

0

The most common way to use sell, meaning "to exchange for money", is the simplest, either active

The liquor store sells red wine.
The clerk is selling that woman a bottle of red wine.

or passive.

Red wine is sold by the liquor store.

Sell in the intransitive means something like "is achieving sales".

The new book is selling really well.

You don't usually see it used without some kind of qualifier, like "selling really well", or "selling poorly". This explains why (B) seems a little wrong.

1
  • I think that intransitive "sell" can be used with other kinds of qualifiers, too, e.g.: "Apple's new watch is selling for $400." (That is fine in U.S. English, at least.) I suspect that there are different degrees of acceptability for various contexts. Jan 13 at 0:00

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .