I'm a copy editor at a law firm and need to give a quick-and-dirty explanation of the difference between "sell" and "sale" to a native English speaker (a legal secretary) who is very self-conscious about her grammar knowledge. I've already given her info about how they are different parts of speech, and some example sentences. She's still not comfortable with her understanding but doesn't know or isn't able to articulate the area(s) of difficulty. Any suggestions?
"Sell" is a verb, an action, it requires conjugation: I sell, you sell, he sells.. I sold, you sold, and so on. "Sale" is a noun, it is not conjugated and usually would appear together with definite or undefinite article "the sale", "a sale".
When person A sold something, A made a sale.
The verb sell /sɛl/ contains the mid front lax vowel /ɛ/, as in bet or men.
The noun sale /sel/, derived from the verb sell, contains the mid front tense vowel /e/ (also /ey, ei, ej, e:/, etc), as in bait or main. These vowels are distinctive (i.e, Phonemic) in English.
However, speakers of many languages, like Spanish and Malay, do not easily distinguish [ɛ] from [e], so there may be some cultural problems, since pronunciation is what most people use as memory cues.
If that's not an issue, then the test is