shop vs store

Curious about Language

Senior Member
Australia, English
Hello everyone,
I searched the archives for this and googled it but can't seem to find an answer.

I know there are some differences between American and British English, and being from Australia, which linguistically is located somewhere just south of Greenland, I am perpetually confused about these. However, after looking at a few dictionary definitions the answer seems to be:

When talking about places of business, a store is simply for selling things. It has another meaning as a place where things are stored, kept until needed.

Shop is more complicated. As a point of sale they have a feeling of being smaller and more often connected with food or organic things (flower shop, pet shop, etc). I am still not really 100% on this issue though. If anyone out there has any ideas or information, I would be most appreciative!
 
  • In BrE, "shop" means any premises that sell retail goods, often of a single kind such as electrical goods, clothes, groceries etc. "Store" tends to mean a larger establishment that is divided into sections and sells several types of goods. Large stores become "department stores", because they are effectively a number of shops in one setting.
     

    Brioche

    Senior Member
    Australia English
    In the US, any retail outlet can be a store, and they can be quite small. Mom and pop stores may be run by just the owners.

    In the past, the Australian usage used to be much the same as the UK usage.

    The American usage is creeping into Australia under the influence of US tv, films, popular music, advertising methods, &c.
     

    roxcyn

    Senior Member
    USA
    American English [AmE]
    In BrE, "shop" means any premises that sell retail goods, often of a single kind such as electrical goods, clothes, groceries etc. "Store" tends to mean a larger establishment that is divided into sections and sells several types of goods. Large stores become "department stores", because they are effectively a number of shops in one setting.
    I agree with this person. Where I'm from we say a lot "I'm going to the store" (usually meaning grocery store). We usually refer to shop as smaller like Kevin described.
     

    sound shift

    Senior Member
    English - England
    In the UK, the generic term among the public is "shop." I often say, "I'm going to the shops." I never say, "I'm going to the stores." Business usage inclines rather more to American usage: I often see signs saying "This store will close on [date]" on the window of premises that I would call a "shop".
     
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    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    In Britain there's also of course the use of shop to mean workshop. A carpentry shop, a paint shop, a repair shop, are likely to be separate sections of a factory.

    Unless qualified with the word department, for me a store is a depot, a store-room, the place where the squirrel keeps his nuts...
     

    loggats

    Member
    British English
    Unless qualified with the word department, for me a store is a depot, a store-room, the place where the squirrel keeps his nuts...
    I agree with this. Anything else is a shop, and most specific shops have their own names anyway (grocer, bookshop, pharmacy, supermarket etc).
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    In the UK, the generic term among the public is "shop." I often say, "I'm going to the shops." I never say, "I'm going to the stores." Business usage inclines rather more to American usage: I often see signs saying "This store will close on [date]" on the window of premises that I would call a "shop".
    Just as a side note, we don't use the plural in American English. "I'm going to the store" (even if I may visit several stores), not "I'm going to the stores". (If we know we are going to several stores I think it would be more likely to say "I'm going shopping" or even "I'm going downtown" in smaller towns.)
     

    Copperknickers

    Senior Member
    Scotland - Scots and English
    "shop" feels more mom-and-pops-y whereas store is more impersonal.
    What makes you say that? I would never use 'store' in any context, no matter how impersonal, unless talking about a department store. The difference is simply that store is the American word for shop in 90% of circumstances.
     

    yakor

    Senior Member
    Russian
    hi!
    What is the diference between "store" and "shop" as the places where you buy something? What is bigger? Which goods could you buy there?
    I bought the apples in the shop. OR I bought the apples in the store?

    << Moderator's note:
    I have merged this with an earlier thread. Please read from the top. :) >>
     
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    cyberpedant

    Senior Member
    English USA, Northeast, NYC
    "Store" can apply to a retail or wholesale operation of any size and purveying any kind of goods. "Shop" is even less precise, in that it can also apply to a place where skilled work is performed, as in "metal-working shop."
     

    sound shift

    Senior Member
    English - England
    In British English, the generic term used by the public is "shop". Traditionally in BrE, "store" only occurred in the retail context in the term "department store": a large operation with several departments and often occupying several floors. Thus, "store" came to suggest "large" in BrE, and owners, presumably hoping to make the place sound more prestigious, tend to use the word "store" where the public would say "shop": on the windows of even quite modest premises we read notices saying "This store will cease trading on 24 March 2013." A BrE speaker who returned home from the greengrocer's and the baker's would say "I've been to two shops", not "I've been to two stores". American usage is different.
     
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    JustKate

    Moderate Mod
    Yes, it is. In AmE, both are used, though store is more common. As far as I can tell, though, the meaning is nearly the same. Shops tend to be small - it's hard for me to imagine someone saying "I went to a large shop" - but store can refer to a small-, medium- or large-sized establishment.
     

    yakor

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Thank you all for answers.
    Traditionally in BrE, "store" only occurred in the retail context in the term "department store": a large operation with several departments and often occupying several floors..
    Could you say why the store in retail trade is called "department store"?
    How it could be called else using the prepositional phrase? (a store consisting of departments? a store of departments? else?)
     

    JustKate

    Moderate Mod
    The only term that I can think of that really works for department store is department store. It's a fixed phrase - an idiom - and as you probably know, Yakor, if you make any change to an idiom, even a really logical change, it usually sounds like an error.
     

    yakor

    Senior Member
    Russian
    The only term that I can think of that really works for department store is department store. It's a fixed phrase - an idiom - and as you probably know, Yakor, if you make any change to an idiom, even a really logical change, it usually sounds like an error.
    But I don't make any change to this idiom-name. Ijust wanted to get why this name was changed. It is the matter of understanding. I have an assosiation that it is called like that because this store has many different departments. (the store with departments)
     

    JustKate

    Moderate Mod
    It isn't really "changed," Yakor. Store is a perfectly ordinary synonym for shop in the U.S., and it's not unheard of in the U.K., either (though it is rarer), as has been explained earlier in the thread. I suspect that the term department store is an import from the U.S. The Online Etymology Dictionary says it dates from 1878, and while it doesn't flat-out identify it as AmE, it uses an AmE example.
     
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    yakor

    Senior Member
    Russian
    But I'm sure before the term "department store" came to using, there was a store with many departments in it. This connection was called as "department store".
    I think it was not the place where one could do shopping firstly. Only later it became comfortable to keep and buy goods in one place.
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    But I'm sure before the term "department store" came to using, there was a store with many departments in it. This connection was called as "department store".
    I think it was not the place where one could do shopping firstly. Only later it became comfortable to keep and buy goods in one place.
    There were markets, trading posts, general stores, etc that sold many different things all together before there were department stores. Department stores divided the stores into departments. Each department is somewhat separate yet they are part of the same store. It was a new method organization. At the grocery store, there is an aisle for baking supplies, but there is not a baking supply department.
    Is that what you are asking?
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    I have also noticed that whereas 'shop' is the ordinary word in BrE, in AmE it can have connotations of exclusivity or quaintness and can even be spelt shoppe​.
     

    JustKate

    Moderate Mod
    In AmE, shop, without any further qualification, just means "small store." There is no automatic connotation of quaintness or exclusivity, though of course that can be conveyed in other ways. Shoppe is just icky - but I agree that the intent of those who use this spelling is to convey a whole bunch of quaintness.
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    I mostly agree with JustKate. It just means a small store in most cases. Shop and store are sometimes interchangeable and sometimes not. I couldn't use "shop" for a department store like Target or Wal-Mart. I can go to a coffee shop but not a coffee store.

    I do understand natkretep's impression and I do think it does apply in some cases. If I say "the street is lined with shops" it usually means a quaint or touristy shopping district, probably because it's more typical to shop in large department stores rather than small shops in suburban U.S., in my experience.
     

    SubFT

    New Member
    English - American
    While my forthcoming explanation is merely supposition, I believe the logic holds. The usage of shop versus store in each nation is likely derived from the settlement patterns of each nation along with the implementation of Modern English. Most linguists don't recognize English in the Modern sense, as opposed to Early or Middle English, as existing until the 16th Century CE. During this time in England most items were commonly created in the home rather than purchased, with certain exceptions...works of metal, for instance. Even then the establishments creating such things, various smiths, metal, jewelry, etc., were small establishments...shops. Retail establishments usually didn't have large stores laid in. Large stores were more community property or privately owned for the person's/family's use, i.e. graineries or warehouses. As such the English usage of 'shop' for a retailer other than a warehouse likely stems from this earlier understanding.

    Americans, on the other hand, saw their country largely emerge in the 19th and 20th Centuries in the wake of the Industrial Revolution. By this time, Modern English was well established. While earlier settlements in the east of the nation saw home crafted items as more common initially. With the advent of factories, many of the homemade items became manufactured instead as prices dropped with the increase of production. American settlement was done more quickly than in England. In England villages spread out as the population grew, eventually having new villages established a short distance away from the original as lands at the first site became overpopulated. This settlement happened over centuries.

    In America though, settlement happened over decades. New settlements were not always established near the old ones. Settlers traveled along trails and later railroads. Settlements often were separated by tens or hundreds of miles. As such at most settlements along these routes, large warehouses/stores were established to aid travelers and communities not near established communities with fully established artisan communities or factories from which to obtain crafted items. Additionally, even in areas with an abundance of one commodity, such as wood, metal or coal might still be scarce and as such a cooper or a foundry might not be around. Again Americans relied more heavily on general supply stores than small shops for their wares. This being the case, most Americans came to refer to the retailer from which they bought or traded as a 'store', whereas a specialty retailer that produced one type or a limited type of items, and thus often was contained in a smaller establishment, as a 'shop'.

    As such, typically when an American speaks of buying staple items, such as bread, milk, etc., they usually state, "I am going to the store," versus, "I am going to the shop(s)". If going to a butcher for meat alone, that same person might say that, "I am going to the butcher shop," or simply, "...the butcher's," but only if said shop is not part of a larger grocery store.

    As a general rule though, if the item is a staple item, it comes from a 'store'. Specialty items, like engagement rings, come from a jeweler or 'jewelry shop'.
     

    Bienne432

    New Member
    English - Canada
    I think these are basically interchangeable. What read or sounds better? 'bookshop' or 'book store'? Your choice.
    That's part of the beauty of language; the options and the play of sounds.

    (open to comments)

    EDIT: often it is a question of sound: Would you say 'pet shop' or 'pet store'?
     

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    Bookshop, pet shop. See also Pet Shop Boys - Wikipedia

    Bookstore and pet store would be places where books and pets respectively are put into storage. Lee Harvey Oswald shot Kennedy from a book store... or at least he would have done if such a thing had happened in Britain. As it was, the British nation learned a new phrase from America overnight: "book depository".
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    I think these are basically interchangeable. What read or sounds better? 'bookshop' or 'book store'? Your choice.
    That's part of the beauty of language; the options and the play of sounds.

    (open to comments)

    EDIT: often it is a question of sound: Would you say 'pet shop' or 'pet store'?
    Welcome!
    It is mainly a difference in American English (AE) versus British English (BE) usage. You have not told us (in your native language entry in your profile) which version of English you speak or are referring to. In discussions like these, it is very helpful to those learning English if they know the viewpoint of the person making a comment:)
     

    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    And why is this Canadian not consistent and doesn't use 'store' for both retail places? Or are sweets sold in shops only in AmE?

     

    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    I thought Canadian was pretty much the same as American. Isn't it? Anyway, any idea why he uses store for one thing and shop for the other?
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    I thought Canadian was pretty much the same as American. Isn't it? Anyway, any idea why he uses store for one thing and shop for the other?
    Not a wise assumption :eek: Two statements that are probably true is 1) there is much more BE usage in Canada than in the US and 2) that there is more AE used in Canada than in the UK. For many, however, the predominant English accent in Canada is closer to AE than BE but that's not necessarily true of word usage.

    Canadian English contains major elements of both British English and American English, as well as many uniquely Canadian characteristics.[9]
    ....
    Phonologically, Canadian and American English are classified together as North American English, emphasizing the fact that the vast majority of outsiders, even other native English speakers, cannot distinguish the typical accents of the two countries by sound aloneCanadian English - Wikipedia
    Source

    In this case, "sweetshop" is a "double BE" term that was retained from the UK immigrants to Canada, and would not be used across the border (where candy is AE and store more common than shop) . On the other hand store and shop could equally be used (in Canada) for somewhere that sells music and "music store" would be more widely used across the border and influence local usage.
     
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    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    Mind you, we don't say "sweets shop", we say "sweet shop". So that Canadian has drifted away from BE.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    Mind you, we don't say "sweets shop", we say "sweet shop". So that Canadian has drifted away from BE.
    (Or the subtitler was not aware of the word and therefore spelt it incorrectly? The sounds of sweets shop and sweet shop or sweetshop in typical speech is not that obvious:))
     
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    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    Since both those words are available, anyone could say either one even in one sentence, even in the U.S. Don't get the idea that a single person has to choose one or the other depending on where they came from. A smaller than average store, even in the U.S., can be called a shop. It's true we would be highly unlikely to say "We're going to the shops" or even "I'm going to the shop" but calling an individual store a shop would not be strange, depending on how big it is and what it sells.
     
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