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How is shop used as a transitive verb? The only transitive meanings I can find are reporting someone to police or Photoshopping an image.

I found one discussion about transitive 'shop', centered on what's being offered up for sale (a baseball player's contract), and related to American English sports writing:

...plans to shop Teixeira, who is eligible for free agency after 2008.

Most other instances I see are from retailers and seem to occur only in the form of a command/inducement:

Shop Peapod today! (mailer, online copy)
Shop our huge selection of products at great prices (online copy)
shop appliances (section link)

Do speakers actually say things like, "I shopped Store Foo" or "She shopped the selection at Store Bar" or "We shopped appliances"? Or is this peculiar to advertisements? I've had no luck figuring out how to search for usage examples so far.

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By the way, other than the sports-star example, it is completely normaly with scripts or movie properties in Hollywood. "Michael Bay is shopping around his new script." And the "around" can be omitted. –  Joe Blow Jun 17 '11 at 8:41

4 Answers 4

up vote 7 down vote accepted

There is an idiom to shop (something) around which means, more or less, to present (something) to a variety of potential buyers to see who will make the best offer for purchase. The example given, “to shop Teixeira” is just a truncated version of this idiom, dropping the around.

Some examples of this idiom from COCA:

  • But how serious could he have been about leaving Sacramento if he didn't have a high-profile agent to shop him around the league, someone who might have bullied or bluff-ed the Kings into talling sign-and-trade with other teams?
  • For a fee, his company will build a prototype and shop it around. If a corporation bites, Davison shares royalties with inventors.
  • They get a good idea, shop it around, raise some capital, then sell it off to a bigger company
  • Insurers sometimes shop patients around to a series of IMEs, flying them out of state and putting them up at motels.
  • And how do you know if you're getting a fair shake? # " I always tell people to shop it around, " said Nedler. " Take it two or three places. You have to trust who you're dealing with.

The shortened version seems commonly used in a sports context:

  • In fact, with the trade deadline coming up Monday, the Bears ought to shop him now and try to retrieve something in return.
  • The idea, they said, was to be up front with free agent Monk during a time when he also could shop himself to the highest NFL bidder.

This truncated version possibly developed from cases like the first example above (shop him around the league), where the phrasal verb to shop ___ around was reanalyzed as a normal transitive verb to shop ___ that takes an optional prepositional phrase with around—as in around the league. Notice that the example shop patients around to a series of IMEs uses “around to”, which is what you’d expect with a phrasal verb.

This idiom is not the same idiom as to shop (a business) or to shop (a selection of products), which is what the other examples are. People definitely use shop in this way. Here are a few examples of this in COCA:

  • Draw up a grocery list for the " big " holiday meal before you go shopping. Divide the list by section and shop the store in that order.
  • Sam's Club stores are huge and carry not only electronics, but everything from auto accessories to food to pharmaceuticals... But: You may need to shop the store repeatedly to recoup the $35 annual membership fee.
  • " We shop the farmers markets for amazing things like raw dates on the stem, red burgundy okra, romanesco, and saturn peaches, " says Holly Vesecky of Holly Flora in Los Angeles.
  • I am a die hard fashionista and, you know, I shop the sales.
  • Before he could ink a deal, he was automatically switched to TXU Energy... His price jumped 71 percent overnight, to 18.8 cents a kilowatt hour from 11 cents. " No way was I going to pay that, " says Mr. Dreese. He was able to shop the market and switch to another retailer for 13.3 cents a kilowatt hour.

To me, this idiom to shop ___ is different from to shop at ___ because it implies a slightly more intense sense of intention to the shopping.

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+1 This is what I had started writing. You did a much better job of it. –  KitFox Jun 16 '11 at 18:36
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It may be just a personal thing, but my understanding of "to shop something/one around" implies "testing the market", so to speak. As in: maybe the thing or person potentially "up for sale" isn't normally "buyable" anyway, and that possibility is being investigated. –  FumbleFingers Jun 16 '11 at 21:10
    
@FumbleFingers, I think that’s about right. When I wrote “to present to a variety of potential buyers to see who will make the best offer for purchase”, I didn’t necessarily mean that a purchase would result. –  nohat Jun 16 '11 at 21:45
    
@nohat @Fumble Fumble, I don't see that. Simply, if you are "shopping a script around," it is for sale and that's that. You're trying to find a suitable/well-paying buyer. If you are just testing the waters of having a lookee, you would use an expresion like testing the waters. Once you're shopping a property around, it's for sale, your agent and legal are ready to wrap up a deal if you can find one! –  Joe Blow Jun 17 '11 at 8:45
    
The British National Corpus has two different hits for "shopped the": "shopped the markets" and "shopped the piece around". "Shopping the" gets 14 hits, but only one is relevant "shopping the thing around". I'm quite surprised as "shopping the markets", because I don't recognise the idiom. –  Colin Fine Jun 17 '11 at 12:19

It's certainly not standard English to Shop Walmart, for example. Any such usage is probably down to either 'marketese' or the specialised vocabulary of the [baseball, etc.] sports transfer market and sports writers reporting thereof.

But you can certainly say We shopped for ski accessories, and countless people will have said We shopped till we dropped.

The usage OP is asking about seems to come down to whether shop can normally replace buy [from], and the answer is it can't. Also it can't grammatically replace sell, or offer for sale except in the baseball player example - and I don't look to sports writers to tell me what's valid English for general use.

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and also 'shop at...' –  rest_day Jun 16 '11 at 17:47
    
@rest_day: Surely. And of course you don't even need preposition + subject at all. "What did you do yesterday?" "We shopped". –  FumbleFingers Jun 16 '11 at 18:16
    
@FumbleFingers both would be a tad different, no? "We shopped" and "We shopped at Walmart" or "We shopped at XYZ street" –  rest_day Jun 16 '11 at 18:24
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It's not ignorance, it's baseball terminology. I really recommend saving an "ignorance" analysis as a last resort. There is almost always a much better explanation. –  Kosmonaut Jun 16 '11 at 18:28
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@Fumble .. "to shop Walmart" is completely normal in the USA. "Let's go shop the mall" "I love to shop Macy's" It's a little bit slang / Vally Girl / Sex in the City / sassy ... but completely normal. –  Joe Blow Jun 17 '11 at 8:39

I've only heard it in the sense of sport star transfers.

But there is no reason why you can't use it. If there is a need for a transitive verb then go ahead - you have my official permission.

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The use of "shop" as a transitive verb implies the preposition. "To shop Teixeira" is equivalent to "to shop out Teixeira", a slightly slang term for "to offer Teixeira's services" as in to sell his contract. "To shop Walmart" is understood as "to shop at Walmart", while "to shop shoes" is "to shop for shoes".

So grammatically, "shop" is not a transitive verb; it requires a preposition. However, colloquially it can be understood as such, and thus it may eventually become "official" over time as it passes into common usage. Such is the fluidity and organic quality of language.

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"Shop out" and "shop around" (the term I normally hear used in baseball) are phrasal verbs — the preposition is not an argument of the object. This is why you can say "the Yankees shopped Texeira around" (with around coming at the end of the sentence) but you can't say "to shop shoes for". In the latter case, for is an argument of the prepositional phrase "for shoes", rather than part of the verb. –  Kosmonaut Jun 16 '11 at 18:26

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