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Technically, B could be—I think—wrong. However, would anyone please show me what is the difference in meaning between them? And whether B is incorrect?

A. the cost of moving house

B. the price of moving house

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    I specifically say in my answer that I would not use the price option in this case... I'm pretty sure that answers your new question. – Catija Jul 18 '15 at 23:55
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    @Catija answers this update already in his answer... "The price of moving house" is a bit odd because you are asking for a price of something that is not specific. If a moving company just had a list of prices and one of them was "moving house", then that would make sense, but moving companies typically will charge based on some combination of distance, amount of stuff to move, time taken, and people working. "What was the price of your moving house?" works just fine though (because you have a concrete number). What do you think is missing? – akedrou Jul 20 '15 at 20:33
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    Please stop editing/adding to your question. By doing so, you are invalidating your answers. If you have a new question, ask a new question. – Catija Jul 23 '15 at 8:43
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    I rolled back the question. You may not alter your question in ways that invalidate existing answers. If you need to ask something else, please ask a new question. – snailcar Jul 23 '15 at 20:07
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    @Nima The bounty is going to end in less than a day. I suggest you award it to the person who deserves it. People have invested time in answering your question, and it'd be rude not to say "thanks". Which means, you'd drive away answerers from answering your question if you disappoint them. – It's Over Jul 26 '15 at 19:45
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Cost can include a wide variety of non-monetary concepts.

For example, the costs of moving house could include:

  • the actual price of renting a moving truck or hiring a moving company
  • potential loss or breakage of items when moving
  • the stress on a person who is moving dealing with a lot of issues
  • time expended in moving (many people take time off from work to move)

That being said, "cost" can be used to ask about monetary cost specifically, as in "How much did it cost?" which would be the equivalent of "What was the price?".

Price generally relates to a more strict monetary value, essentially, how much money did you spend when you moved house.

But, price can be used more figuratively... "He paid the ultimate price." is usually interpreted to mean "He gave up his life." (he died).

Personally, I would not use price in the situation you are asking about... price more directly relates to the price of an item in a store.

It would be more appropriate to use price if you say something like "What was the price the moving company quoted you?"

Similarly, if you wanted to call a moving company to find out what they would charge for doing the job of moving your belongings from your current house to a new one, you could say:

Can you give me a quote for my move?
What would be the price to move my elephant from [address A] to [address B]?
How much would it cost to move the contents of a 2500 square foot household 20 miles?

Any of these options work in this situation. The thing about moving is that it's unlikely to have a set "price" because the volume of stuff you need to move will greatly increase what you are charged. Because of this (in the US, at least), when calling a moving company, it's appropriate to ask for a "quote (definition 3), which may require that they come to your house to see how much stuff you have, how big the pieces of furniture are, and how fragile it is. Additional things like how far the houses are from each other and whether it's a house or 10th floor apartment with no elevator can greatly affect the price.


Additionally (but not really related to this question), "cost" has the added concept of "at cost", so if someone said:

I had to sell it "at cost".

That generally means that they sold it for the same price they paid for it. So, if a shop pays a company $50 for an item, they usually mark it up to at least double ($100) but if they have to get it out of the shop for some reason, selling it "at cost" means they sold it for $50 and made no profit on it.

  • I don't agree that price more directly relates to the price of an item in a store; consider the corpus data referred to in my answer, as well as colleenV's comment - the sentence "if you get very drunk tonight, you'll pay the price in the morning" is both completely natural and something I've told myself too many times. But what monetary value is there on my hangover? Also, which store did I get it from? I want a refund. – jimsug Jul 26 '15 at 15:23
  • @jimsug have you read my answer in its entirety? Do you see where I discuss the figurative use of price? "He paid the ultimate price". – Catija Jul 26 '15 at 15:27
  • Yes, and you went onto say that "price more directly relates to the price of an item in a store." I submit that this isn't true, because of all of those figurative uses. Am I paying the price for giving an unpopular opinion? Do prisoners pay the price for their crimes? I just don't agree with the general flip-flopping on the matter of whether price may only refer to a nominal figure on a price tag. It may be a matter of style, but you need only look at the corpus data to see that it's not a matter of usage, nor of grammar. – jimsug Jul 26 '15 at 15:32
  • @jimsug I preface that by saying I wouldn't use it in this situation. "More" does not mean usually or always, it means more. If I go twice a year to the dentist and someone else goes only once, I go more often, but it's still not a lot of visits. Yes, what you are saying is true but you're taking it completely out of the context of the cost/price of moving house. – Catija Jul 26 '15 at 15:43
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    @jimsug Ah, no. When I say "In this situation" I mean, in the realm of this question. – Catija Jul 26 '15 at 15:47
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+200

Nominal uses

There are some interesting difference in usage that help illuminate the differences in meaning. I'm using GloWbE because it contains samples from different varieties of English. Here's a corpus search for price1. Here's one for cost.2

  • ... all these tips might help me get a better price.
  • Nope today's low gas price is Big Oil's long term plan to shut down its competition
  • This is their full price, every other rate is a discount off of this rate.
  • ... price rises and falls will not translate into electricity price cuts or increases for consumers ...

This is a context in which you would very clearly not use cost.

Compare the nominal uses of cost:

  • I think that libraries will close because of the cost savings in eliminating the employees.
  • It does not require isotope separation, a big cost saving.
  • Regardless of the personal cost to him or his vested interests

You could probably substitute price in these examples. But it would change the meaning. My observation is that there is some agency that is lost when you use cost in place of price - you pay a price for something, but you incur a cost because of something.

Although it is common, for instance, in order orders, that a party is ordered to pay another's costs, this is entirely consistent with my observation - the costs themselves were incurred because of the legal proceedings, but someone else is paying (the price).

It is at least, unusual, if not ungrammatical to say either:

  • I am paying the cost for your mistake.
  • I incurred the price(s?) for the professional services.

Verbal uses

I thought there would be a huge difference in verbal uses, because the definitions are so different3:

price
12. to fix or establish the price of
13. to ascertain or discover the price of

cost
7. (transitive) to be obtained or obtainable in exchange for (money or something equivalent); be priced at ⇒ "the ride cost one pound"
8. to cause or require the expenditure, loss, or sacrifice (of) ⇒ "the accident cost him dearly"
9. to estimate the cost of (a product, process, etc) for the purposes of pricing, budgeting, control, etc

The corpus supports my hypothesis. In purely verbal uses, the overlap exists entirely in that the verbal sense of price are subsumed by part of the verbal sense (the last one; sense 9) of cost.

However, where the past participle (priced; costed) is part of an adjective, priced dominates:

  • a higher-priced mobile phone
  • low priced beer
  • high priced tickets

In practical usage

What does this mean?

Essentially, people tend to use price when they feel they have agency - the price of a house, the price of a car, the price of lunch.

People tend to use cost when they feel like they don't have agency, and the expenses and costs are being placed upon them - the cost of moving, the cost of a free lunch.

This is why, as others have alluded to and intuited, the costs often seem to include non-monetary losses. For instance, to use the moving house example:

  • The costs include:
    • The price of a moving truck
    • The price of a conveyancer
    • The price of new furniture
    • The price of setting up utilities

However, you could also say:

  • The price comprised of:
    • The price of a moving truck
    • The price of a conveyancer
    • The price of new furniture
    • The price of setting up utilities

In answer to your question

Generally, only the price of something - that is, what you will pay will be listed on a price tag (hence the naming). So, when you ask what how much you will pay, the amount indicated on the tag will be the price, not the cost.

This is a marketing strategy, as well as matter of practicality. If you purchase a car, you would need to spend a certain amount for it, the price. However, in using it, you will spend money on consumables (fuel, tires) and maintenance (servicing). This really can't be listed for any item with great accuracy - it'll depend on usage.

So, you can say either the cost of moving house or the price of moving house on their own and they are both correct. But if you use it in a sentence, it will depend on the sentence.


1. Note that I've only searched for nouns, because the verbs have reasonably different meanings which I discuss.
2. Again, only nominal uses.
3. Collins dictionary: price, cost.
4. GloWbE: price as a verb, cost as a verb.

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    This is a great answer. There are other idiomatic uses of "cost" and "price" that aren't explicitly about purchasing things that fit into the idea of the difference between "cost" and "price" being about what is negotiable and non-negotiable. For example "That's just the cost of doing business." or "If you get very drunk tonight, you'll pay the price in the morning." – ColleenV parted ways Jul 26 '15 at 14:55
  • But even in that last example, agency is being attributed to the person who will pay the price. This is done in cases where something is punitive - pay the price for a life of crime. The reason probably has to do with causation, where you do something and then have to pay the price, and we want to attribute fault to people doing bad things. Compare "bearing the costs of another's mistakes" - although you could also say "paying the price", either is acceptable because the person doesn't have agency attributed to them. – jimsug Jul 26 '15 at 15:00
  • Yes, I meant it as an elaboration of what you said, not a counterexample. – ColleenV parted ways Jul 26 '15 at 15:01
  • Yeah, I worked that out as I was writing but found myself having to explain it to myself, then I tried to explain the motivation... I think I started my comment with "but", and then forgot to take it out before I submitted ;) – jimsug Jul 26 '15 at 15:04
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Price = amount of money or other resource you have to pay to the seller per one instance of the sold good or service.

Cost = total amount of money or other resources one has to spend for all the things one wants to buy.

So,

the cost of moving a/the house

is usually what you want to mean.

the price of moving a house

means the standard amount of money a professional house-mover usually takes for his services.

  • "Moving house" usually means moving the contents of the house from one building to another. I'm pretty sure the OP isn't talking about how much it costs to literally move the building. – Catija Jul 20 '15 at 22:10
  • @Catija okay, but in what sentence I implyed the opposite? – Anixx Jul 20 '15 at 22:18
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    When you added "a/the". The phrase "move a house" would pretty much imply moving the building. "Moving house", or simply "moving" is the term used to say you're moving the contents of the house. – Catija Jul 20 '15 at 22:21
  • @Catija I see but I added the article so to underline that price can be only of moving a house, not the house. And, anyway, why do you think there cannot be a service for moving buildings?.. – Anixx Jul 20 '15 at 22:33
  • Why do you think that price can only be for "a"? "What is the price of the Mona Lisa?" is perfectly fine. I also never said that you can not get a price for moving an actual building. I said that that's not what the question is asking about. All I was doing was explaining what the term "moving house" means, since you chose to add an unnecessary article. – Catija Jul 20 '15 at 22:36
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Enough material is here to learn the difference between 'cost' and 'price. But, my two cents...

When it comes to purchase/buy something, 'cost' and 'price' are *generally interchangeable.

What is the price of this car?

OR

What is the cost of this car?

BUT if you dig it further, 'cost' has a bit broader meaning. When it comes to taking 'services', 'cost' is the word. The same car, when goes for repairing, you say...

Car's repairing cost came close to USD 1000

'cost' is also used in the context of abstracts

The cost of the war; the cost of living

A good example I can think of is "as the prices of commodities hike, the cost of living increases!"

Another example I can think of is when I visit you and see that you got a new tv, the conversation may go between us...

Hey Nima, got a new TV...huh ~ Yeah, last week only....
Oh, okay... what's the price? ~ USD 1000 but it cost me USD 1050!
What's that? ~ Ah, I mean including the transportation and installation!
Oh...I see! :)

So, to answer your question, if the purpose is solely talking about 'purchase/buy' with the exchange of money, both are interchangeable. But, if you are using it for something else, choose carefully!

  • The problem with this use is that, if I ask the car dealership selling the car "What is the cost", as an AmE speaker, that means, "what did the dealership have to pay for it", while "What is the price?" means what do I have to pay for it. This is why I have the section in my answer about the concept of "at cost". – Catija Jul 23 '15 at 19:45
  • @Catija surprisingly, in India, it's all valid if you ask 'cost' instead of 'price' for a 4K TV! Trust me, I just bought it! :) – Maulik V Jul 24 '15 at 8:42
  • @maulik it may be interchangeable when you're asking for the monetary value (eg what is the price/cost of something) but is it grammatical when using it in a declarative sentence, eg I paid the cost/price of the television, which was $X – jimsug Jul 26 '15 at 15:20
  • In India, there are a lot of differences with standard English. – Quidam Nov 15 '19 at 21:55
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[The discussion here about the usage of cost and price is restricted to the monetary value.]

  1. Price is usually used to mean the amount of money you pay to purchase an object in shops/restaurants.

We were shocked by the price of a cup of coffee in London.

  1. Cost is used to mean the amount of money needed to produce/make a particular thing, or do something.

In 1989 the price of coffee fell so low that in many countries it did not even cover the cost of production.

  1. When it's the service/activity we want to use, we generally use cost.

I worked out the cost of the repairs.
The total cost of the trip was under $500.

  1. At times both cost and price is used interchangeably to mean the the amount of money one has to pay for something.

This was significant for a large ship crossing vast oceans at a time when the cost of fuel was rising.
And good news - the price of fuel has dropped 40 cents locally in the past two days.


You quoted -

A. the cost of moving house

B. the price of moving house

Generally we use cost with the services/activities. In your example moving house is a particular service, not an object. So in that case generally what is used is the cost of moving a house.

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    As I have noted on another answer, the sentences in the question are "The cost of moving house" and "The price of moving house". This does not mean the same things as "the cost/prices of moving a house" and you really can't use cost and price interchangeably in this case. – Catija Jul 22 '15 at 17:34
  • Thanks. So, and my last question, is there any situation or circumstance(economically)we could use those terms interchangeably? – nima Jul 23 '15 at 8:04
  • Thanks @Catija. Just wondering what is the difference in meaning? – Man_From_India Jul 23 '15 at 14:37
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    @Man_From_India "Move a house" means physically move the building. "Move house" means to move your belongings from one house to another one. – Catija Jul 23 '15 at 19:21
  • Thank you @Catija. Yes got it :-) yes I was unaware about it. – Man_From_India Jul 24 '15 at 14:07
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A cost is something that is incurred. It could be money or other resources. For example, if you travel to a far city, you'll use gas. A cost of traveling to the city is the gas used - e.g. the resources you use are a cost to you. If you want to change the cost, you have to change the way you get there.

A price is something one sets. For example, you want to sell something, and you set a price of $10. (Ideally it covers your costs in getting the item to sell.) Or, you want to buy something for $10 that someone else has. You might be able to negotiate a lower price, but still get the same item.

If you are doing something yourself, you are usually looking into the cost of it (you can't sell something to yourself). If you want to pay someone else to do something for you, you are usually looking into the price of it, which becomes a cost to you when you purchase the service.

Since money is a resource, losing money is a cost, and amounts of money are typically what prices are expressed in, many times these words don't have a big difference in meaning. Cost is more appropriate if the resources used are non-monetary.

So,

A. the cost of moving house

B. the price of moving house

A means you are looking into what resources you have to give up to move the house.

B means you are looking into how much money you have to pay to have someone else move the house.

  • I don't thing your final explanations are entirely accurate - as my research above indicates, nominally, they differ mainly in the verbs that are used with them, and you could very easily assign a monetary value to moving house and equate that to the price of moving house. If I sat down and worked out the total dollar figure it would cost me, I could say "the price of moving house is $X". I couldn't, however, say "I incurred $X in prices while moving", while you could use "costs" instead. While I agree with your broader notions, your final statements don't really follow. – jimsug Jul 26 '15 at 15:11
  • Also, regarding the "price is something one sets", that's not necessarily true - "if you drink too much tonight, you'll pay the price in the morning". Who is setting the price that I am paying? Myself? Do I have a choice? I would argue not. – jimsug Jul 26 '15 at 15:13
  • @jimsug: That's what I'm saying - price is something assigned and cost is not really something assigned, but something that is more of an attribute of an activity - the use of resources while performing an activity is a cost. I guess price could also be used to communicate what something will cost - before the activity is performed - because at that point the cost hasn't been incurred yet, so you are still in a "negotiating phase" - Thus "if you drink too much tonight, you'll pay the price in the morning" makes sense. – LawrenceC Jul 27 '15 at 13:27
  • "could also be used to communicate what something will cost" - consider "I'm paying the price for being lazy in high school". – jimsug Jul 27 '15 at 13:29
  • Good point. I should know better than to post here before I've had coffee. – LawrenceC Jul 27 '15 at 14:00
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There is some overlap. However, look at the following:

We talk about the price of buying a car but the cost of owning a car.

"What was the price of your new car?"

" X thousand."

"What is the cost of running it?"

"Y hundred a month."

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