- Posted by Stephen Whiteley
- On 12/01/2017
- etimología rebajas, for sale, on sale, on sale or for sale, Rebajas
It has begun: the first sales season of the year. You stroll down the street and everywhere you look are promises of bargains and markdowns and deals! Oh my! Yes, it truly is an exciting time of year. Everything you’ve ever wanted is on sale, or is it for sale? Or is it, perhaps, both?
Ah, yet another puzzle of prepositions in the English language. Fear not, there is any easy(-ish) answer to be found. Let’s start with the etymology of “sale.” According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, the term comes from the Old English word sala, meaning “a sale, act of selling,” which in turn comes from Old Norse. On its own, the meaning of “sale” is easy enough: the exchange of good or services for money or its equivalent.
Regarding its pair of prepositions, the first usage of the expression “for sale” dates back to Elizabethan times and means “available to customers.” The expression “on (or upon) sale” shared that same meaning for quite a long time.
The 19th century, however, brought many changes, including in the meaning of the word “sale.” It took on the additional meaning of selling something at a lower price than usual. Of our two prepositional phrases, the only one that expresses this new meaning of a discount is “on sale,” while still retaining its early meaning. Thus, we can say that “something is on sale” and either be expressing that the good or service is simply available to customers or that is available to customers at a discounted price. “For sale,” on the other hand, can only ever mean that something is available to customers. Everything on sale is for sale, but not everything that is for sale is on sale. Does that clear things up?
Want to learn more about language and translation? Check out our social media and our YouTube channel.