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To me, the first sentence seems to mean the vase was sold at an auction whreas the second sentence was sold at a store.

As a non-native speaker, it's so confusing which preposition is more appropriate for the price.

Also, I think the second sentence more likely to be used than the first one.

Am I right? Is there any subtle difference between these two?

1 Answer 1

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The vase was sold at $300.

This is typical use at an auction, where the actual selling price is determined by the competing bidders. It is normal to use at here to emphasize that, from a spectrum of possible prices, this is the price at which the item sold.

The vase was sold for $300.

This is the most common use, and is typical in non-auction settings, where the seller sets a price. Even if the list price was $350 and some negotiation was done, it is normal to say that it sold for a price.

Note that these uses are not exclusive; one could use either one in either situation, but these are the more common uses.

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  • Agreed, although instead of spectrum I would say it's the mark at which the object was sold, since (normally) auction prices only go up.
    – Andrew
    Feb 15, 2019 at 15:29
  • There is a range of possible prices, from the minimum bid to (theoretically) infinity. That the bids only increase does not change this, although each bid reduces the remaining options.
    – Davo
    Feb 15, 2019 at 15:45
  • Sure, and it's a minor distinction that I only mention because when we use the word "spectrum" we say where someone "falls on that spectrum" -- which is to say there is no directional component. It may be easier to visualize an auction as a rising value that stops at the point where no one wants to bid any higher.
    – Andrew
    Feb 15, 2019 at 17:37

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