on sale [American English vs British English]


Senior Member
Hello there!

My dictionary gives two meanings for "on sale".

First: to be available in the shops (British English)
Second: to be available in the shops at a reduced price (because it's the period of the sales, American English).

Is my dictionary right and if so, what do you say for lower prices during the sales in Britain?

Thank you very much
  • Matching Mole

    Senior Member
    England, English
    The definition is quite right in regard to British usage, if something is on sale it is simply available to be bought in the shops, etc. We would not say "I bought this on sale" meaning that it was at a reduced price in a sale. I'm surprised to learn that it is different in the US.

    I would say "I bought this in a sale", or "in the sales" (the plural refers to the "sale" season, for example, in January). I can't think of an example of using "on sale" to mean this in British English.


    Senior Member
    English UK
    I think your dictionary is right, Hese. This was one difference between BrE and AmE/CanE that I was very struck by when I lived in Canada for a couple of years.


    Senior Member
    English-United Kingdom
    I would like to add that the word "discount" is often used when talking about things that are being sold at a lower price in a sale. For example, you might see the following sort of notice stuck in a shop window during a sale:

    "100,s of goods being sold at discount prices!"

    Also, you could weave the word "discount" into Mole's 2 excellent sentences,(which are indeed, truly the sort of thing that an English speaker might say after they have bought something from a sale)as follows:

    "I bought this in a sale, at a discount price", or:
    "I bought this in the sales, at a discount price"

    Here is another example of the sort or language that a shop might use: Very often, a price label on an item in a shop, during a sale, might bear the following typical sort of description:

    "Less than 1/2 price, was £39.99, now only £15.99"


    Senior Member
    English - England
    "I bought this in a sale, at a discount price", or:
    "I bought this in the sales,
    at a discount price"
    I'm not sure that I use "at a discount price".->
    "I bought this in the sales at a discount." sounds better (after all, what else would be discounted?) - but still, to me, lacks something - if it was "in the sales" then we expect it to be "at a discount."

    "I got it cheap/cheaply in the sales."


    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    In American English "it goes on sale next week" could mean two things.

    The product has never been sold before and is being newly offered, starting next week.

    The product is currently available but next week the price will be lowered (in this case, for an unspecified period of time).
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