“Stores” and “shops” in American English

In America, people buy stuff in “stores.” Over here, they buy stuff in “shops.”

In America, people find the word “shop” old fashioned. They expect it to designate a small and cramped place where goods are not on display in large quantities.

Now, if we look at three hundred years ago, when people in America had just settled and were still essentially speaking the same language as in England:

  • “storehouses” were places where goods were placed to keep for a long time, before they were sold.
  • when they were to be sold, they were moved to “shops” and put on display for customers.

And then, gradually, cultural changes made it more convenient for customers in America to go and buy their stuff directly from the shelves of the storehouse — there there was no aesthetic in the display, but goods were available in large quantities.

This has not happened over here, so there we are linguistically.