sell someone onto somebody [sell a baby]

madeavailable

Member
Taiwanese
Hello there,

In a recent CNN.com news article about a Chinese obstetrician who has been given a suspeneded death sentence after selling seven newborns to a human trafficking ring, the author writes: "Mr. Pan sold the baby onto a villager in Henan province for 59,800 yuan ($9,900.)"

In the above sentence, the editor came up with the structure "sell someone onto somebody." Is it grammatically correct? If not, what is the right way to say it? And are there any other ways to convey the same meaning?

Please free feel to weigh in.

Thank you very much for your help.
 
Last edited:
  • The Newt

    Senior Member
    English - US
    No, it's not correct, and it's very unusual. Normally, we would say "sold the baby to a villager." If the idea is that the baby was first sold by one person, and then sold again by another person to a third party, we might say "sold the baby on to (two separate words) a villager," but even that would be very unlikely.
     

    madeavailable

    Member
    Taiwanese
    Thank you The Newt for the correction.
    Given the context of the story, first, the maternity doctor sold a baby to an individual surnamed Pan, and then Mr. Pan sold the baby on to a villager. So this is indeed a situation involving a third party. The sentence first appeared quite unnatural to me though.
     

    The Newt

    Senior Member
    English - US
    Thank you The Newt for the correction.
    Given the context of the story, first, the maternity doctor sold a baby to an individual surnamed Pan, and then Mr. Pan sold the baby on to a villager. So this is indeed a situation involving a third party. The sentence first appeared quite unnatural to me though.
    Yes, "on to" (two words) would be correct in that situation. "On" in this case means something like "further along."
     

    madeavailable

    Member
    Taiwanese
    Now it's all cleared up. The editor of the article, however, does not separate 'onto' into two words and it's already causing confusion among readers ;\)
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    The problem is that there is a phrasal verb "to sell [something] on" which usually has the extra meaning of "to sell but (i) not as the first person to sell the article and implies (ii) for a profit/for more than one pays for it."

    The implication was that he was trading in babies for profit, whereas the if the baby's mother had sold the child to the doctor, then the report might read: "The mother sold it to the doctor and the doctor sold it on to a villager."

    "I bought a car for £600 and sold it on for £800."
    but
    "I bought a car for £600. I kept it for a year and then sold it for £400."

    So you see that in "He sold it on to a villager..." the on and the to have to be separate.
     
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