And Explain its structure:

It was a dirty place enough, and I dare say not unknown to smuggling adventurers; but there was a good fire in the kitchen, and there were eggs and bacon to eat, and various liquors to drink. (source)

Does it mean, it was a very dirty place? How can I use this structure in my own writing...

1 Answer 1


Additional context from Great Expectations:

It was a dirty place enough, and I dare say not unknown to smuggling adventurers; but there was a good fire in the kitchen, and there were eggs and bacon to eat, and various liquors to drink

To me, it looks like unusual rephrasing of "a dirty enough place," meaning it was fairly dirty but not very dirty.

Per comment from Old Brixtonian below, it may simply be an affirmation of "dirty", closer to "it was dirty, sure enough" that is used regionally. Given that it takes place in Great Britain, this interpretation for the Great Expectations quote is more likely correct.

If taken as a rephrasing of "dirty enough", the implication is that it is dirty but not filthy, and while it is likely a place criminals like smugglers might come, it isn't too dirty to leave because it meets their minimum standards (in this case, for fire, food, and drink).

When using it in your own writing, you need to be aware of how dramatically context can affect the meaning for this construction.

If writing prose in a similar setting to Great Expectations (not just Britain, but in the past) you might use "it was a dirty place enough" to mean "it was, in fact dirty". To extend it to other adjective, you might say "it was a nice place enough".

However, I would say this is rarely ever used in American English (google ngram for American English) and modern British English (google ngram for British English), so I do not recommend using it this way unless you are trying to evoke a specific atmosphere like a Dicken's novel.

Looking at how "enough" modifies adjective more commonly, the construct "____ enough" can be used with both positive and negative adjectives, and typically to lessen the impact of adjective. Depending on context, it can mean "barely ___ enough" or "sure, it's a little ____" or more literally "it is sufficiently ___"

A variety examples of using this construction to show how it is very dependent on context:

She was pretty enough, he supposed, but hadn't read any of his favorite authors.

Implies he thinks she's pretty, but not very pretty in his perspective, and that opinion is impacted by other factors (specifically, her taste in authors).

She was good enough for the varsity team.

Implies she was literally sufficiently good. If it's extended further:

She was good enough for the junior varsity team, but perhaps not for the senior varsity team.

Implies that she meets one standard, but not a second, higher standard.

Or, a different direction:

She was good enough for the varsity team, so why wouldn't they invite her to the community league?

Implies she met a high standard (varsity team), and is using that to question why she didn't mean a different standard.

I dare say it's a dirty enough place to host a covert meeting

Implies it is sufficiently dirty that the speaker thinks it may be commonly used for people wishing to be overlooked. Further context is needed to determine whether this is a good thing (he is looking to meet secretly) or a bad thing (he is concerned about criminal activity). In this case, we are again referring to a "dirty enough place", but the meaning is almost the opposite of the original quote.

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    I would say "sufficiently" is somewhat off-base. Here, "enough" is for emphasis and shouldn't be taken literally, much as "pretty" in "That man is pretty ugly." See this entry under "enough" on Google/Lexico: "used for emphasis. "curiously enough, this is not a new phenomenon"" The placement dates the writing, as in old writings you often see phrases like "I was a bad man enough".
    – Eddie Kal
    Jan 13, 2021 at 3:03
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    I think it means little more than "certainly". It sounds to me like someone Scottish saying, "It was a dirty place right enough", or "it's a dirty place so it is." It's just a confirmation. Jan 13, 2021 at 4:17
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    Hm, @OldBrixtonian, I have definitely heard that before and didn't think of it. My bias towards AME showing. I updated based on your comment. I'm not sure if it's still worth including the other examples, but again, I do want to help the original poster understand how to use "enough" to modify adjectives in their own writing.
    – AlannaRose
    Jan 13, 2021 at 4:35
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    @AlannaRose. It's kind of you to put so much work into it. BUT this: "If writing prose set in GB or otherwise using BrE, you could use "it was a dirty place enough" isn't true. We wouldn't say that. Perhaps in Dickens's time they did, but we wouldn't. All the Ngram references [books.google.com/ngrams/… are to Great Expectations itself! We would say 'a dirty enough place.' Jan 13, 2021 at 6:00
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    Ah, that was my intent (specific to Dicken's-era GB) and I didn't make it clear. Similar to how Recency novels make some antiquated writing choices for atmosphere. Thanks!
    – AlannaRose
    Jan 13, 2021 at 21:35

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