What does “produce” mean here?



The jetties coming out into the river, and a host of ships in the Middle Ages, little wooden ships ferrying produce across from the Continent and back. (Source)

The structure of the whole sentence is quite confusing to me: how can I understand it?

I looked it up here. I would have picked the fourth meaning,

if you produce an object, you bring it out or present it, so that people can see or consider it

When challenged, he produced a gun.

But produce is not transitive in my example.


Posted 2018-04-19T14:09:17.880

Reputation: 331

4Which dictionaries have you consulted? Do you think that word is a noun or a verb? – James K – 2018-04-19T14:13:15.910

@JamesK Thanks for commenting. I looked it up here. I would have picked the fourth meaning, if produce is not transitive there.

– Hello – 2018-04-19T14:19:26.447

6@benny - Scroll down at that dictionary link and look for the noun definition (main definition 2). It should make a lot more sense. – Canadian Yankee – 2018-04-19T14:47:43.483

1@Benny I've incorporated your comment into the question. It is now clear why you are confused. Remember you can edit your questions, instead of adding information in comments. – James K – 2018-04-19T14:57:06.700

Your problem was confusion about "produce", but the sentence doesn't make sense to me. If the second comma was a colon, the sentence could be a list of two things with the meaning "Jetties, and boats: clarification about boats". – Paul Hankin – 2018-04-19T15:55:18.077

1I can't find that sentence at the source you linked to. When I search for "jetties", the sentence ends at "in the Middle Ages", there's nothing about produce. – Barmar – 2018-04-20T03:37:13.523

@Barmar I also have no idea, because it’s an edited version by another user, although at a glance the context is quite indeed about what I was asking. – Hello – 2018-04-20T03:39:47.740

Where did you find the quote in the first place? Maybe you can fix the link. – Barmar – 2018-04-20T03:44:37.843

@Barmar A documentary, as I mentioned in the comments. But I may think doing so is not very much in need, the answers below are already sufficient and perfect for one to get a good understanding about this topic. – Hello – 2018-04-20T03:46:53.323



You've got to scroll down further on your definition page to:

Definition of produce

prod-uce: noun [uncountable]
food or other things that have been grown or produced on a farm to be sold

You see that produce can also be a noun, so it means crops, food, or other things produced on a farm (and, might I add, elsewhere as well.)

Therefore, the sentence means:

The jetties coming out into the river, and a host of ships in the Middle Ages, little wooden ships ferrying things produced on farms across from the Continent and back.


Posted 2018-04-19T14:09:17.880

Reputation: 398

17Worthwhile to note, as the link does, that the two are generally pronounced differently. The verb is with a short O, the noun is with a long O. – Matthew FitzGerald-Chamberlain – 2018-04-19T15:58:52.623


@MatthewFitzGerald-Chamberlain Indeed. It's one of the many Initial-stress derived nouns in English.

– Mark S. – 2018-04-19T17:21:21.007

And you don't really need to scroll down to discover that it has multiple meanings: the top of the page contains a listing of its "word family", including a link to the noun "produce". – amalloy – 2018-04-19T17:27:49.410

2In my experience with modern American English, it typically refers to fruits and vegetables. – jpmc26 – 2018-04-20T06:35:08.080

Would it seem strange to use "produce" for other things you might buy when getting your groceries? Laundry detergent, diesel, tissue paper, glue, etc. – OmarL – 2018-04-20T07:20:14.033

It would seem very strange. Produce means things you would get from a farm, generally whatever is sold by a greengrocer and most of what is sold by a butcher, plus a few other related goods. @Wilson – Nij – 2018-04-20T08:30:18.570

3@Wilson those are "products" not "produce". Once it's processed from its raw state, it becomes a product. – Pete Kirkham – 2018-04-20T08:53:37.957


The reason that you are confused is that "produce" (with the stress on the second syllable) is a verb. But "produce" (with the stress on the first syllable) is a noun, and it is the noun that is being used here.

In this context "produce" means "fresh food, vegetables, etc"; basically anything you get from a farm. It is a non-count noun. So your quote can be glossed:

... little wooden ships carrying food across to the continent and back.

If I remember my history I think that wine was carried from France to England, and wool was taken from England to France.

James K

Posted 2018-04-19T14:09:17.880

Reputation: 80 781

3Yes, pointing out that difference in pronunciation here is important. – Lambie – 2018-04-19T15:17:44.770

2@Lambie aha, it’s actually a documentary, and I listened to it again. Indeed, the street is on the second syllable! I just missed that point! – Hello – 2018-04-19T15:21:27.870

1You're missing a closing parenthesis. – Kat – 2018-04-19T21:42:22.740

xkcd 859 – James K – 2018-04-19T21:45:35.050

@JamesK what's that? – Hello – 2018-04-19T22:26:32.573

@benny, a joke, in reply to Kat's comment. – James K – 2018-04-20T10:50:28.130


I think a bit part of the problem is that the whole passage has no main verb: it isn't a well-formed sentence, but rather a verbless sentence fragment; one long noun-phrase describing a scene. "Ferrying" is a verb but is active only within a subordinate part; and "produce" as has been noted is here as a noun.

I see that it's from a script. It's common in stage directions to have descriptions of what is to be shown: "A man's apartment, with a window facing trees, and a writing desk on the left". So that's what this is. It's a nice word-picture, rather like we're zooming slowly in what might be a still picture, and then realizing that the boats are actually moving.


Posted 2018-04-19T14:09:17.880

Reputation: 1 436

It's not a stage direction, it seems to be part of a list of things that the narrator is describing. – Barmar – 2018-04-20T03:39:30.537

I think CCTO is saying that this fragment from a documentary script is like a stage direction, not that it is one. – Toby Speight – 2018-04-20T14:15:24.217