I’d like to ask about the sentence from The Three Gables by Conan Doyle.

.. but naturally I was interested in what he said. I therefore named a price which was £500 more than I gave.

Here I’m not really sure about what the speaker meant. The speaker is talking about when someone wanting to buy her house came to her. I’d like to make sure whether the price mentioned by her was..

  • A: The one £500 higher than the price she bought the house she lives in now.


  • B: The one £500 higher than the lowest figure on which she would have accepted to sell the house.

I don’t know how to interpret the verb “give” in the quote. I think “to give” can mean both “to concede” and “to pay”, right? Which one is it?

  • 3
    Sure, but when talking about transactions with money, "give" meaning concede is a bit too lyrical and far-fetched than the simplest meaning of giving money. Commented Jun 29, 2021 at 12:23
  • 1
    I don't think it's either - it's "C. she named a sum of money that was £500 more than the price she paid for the house she was living in at the time" - i.e. the house that the other person was trying to buy. She could well have been doing herself out of a large amount of money if she'd lived there 40 years, but as she'd been there only a short time, and considering the value of a British house at the time, adding £500 on top of the ~£500 she probably paid for it was a good test of just how committed the other person was to buying a house at double the going market rate
    – Caius Jard
    Commented Jun 30, 2021 at 10:17

1 Answer 1


It helps to have a bit more of the context leading up to this:

There have been some very strange happenings. I have been in this house more than a year now, and as I wished to lead a retired life I have seen little of my neighbours. Three days ago I had a call from a man who said that he was a house agent. He said that this house would exactly suit a client of his, and that if I would part with it money would be no object. It seemed to me very strange as there are several empty houses on the market which appear to be equally eligible, but naturally I was interested in what he said. I therefore named a price which was five hundred pounds more than I gave.

From this, it's apparent that the speaker is saying he named a price which was five hundred pounds more than he had paid for the house himself. The wording is a bit odd, but likely an artifact of slightly different vernacular stylings in 1926 vs 2021.

  • 6
    Had it ended “…five hundred pounds more than I gave for it.”, then it would have been perfectly clear today — and not remotely odd (at least, not round these parts).  I guess the ‘for it’ should be implied by the context.
    – gidds
    Commented Jun 29, 2021 at 13:32
  • 1
    Not sure if it's just down to inflation or me not understanding British currency, but isn't a difference of £500 pretty near meaningless when you're talking about the price of a whole house, even back then? I think you'd be looking at 5 figures on the low end (these days it'd be at least 6 figures I think), so going up or down by £500 seems like it'd hardly matter... Commented Jun 29, 2021 at 14:25
  • 16
    In 1926 the average house in Britain cost £619. Commented Jun 29, 2021 at 14:29
  • 4
    It's inflation at work. Housing prices in particular have gone up a great deal since the 1970s. My quick google search didn't reveal housing prices beyond the extreme high end for England in the 1920s (although one passing mention indicated a cottage might go for £420), but the average weekly wage was £5 which translates to an annual income of about £250 which helps put the numbers in context. Commented Jun 29, 2021 at 14:35
  • 2
    I still have the receipted invoice from when my late grandfather married and moved into a new small house in the UK in 1913 (admittedly a bit earlier than 1926). The cost of a complete basic set of furniture for kitchen, living room and a bedroom, cooking equipment, curtains, etc, was just £20. He paid in cash, in two installments. And interestingly, he bought everything from just one store, in the nearest small town - "small" meaning population about 2,500.
    – alephzero
    Commented Jun 29, 2021 at 15:15

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