7

I will start with the example I know to make it clear.

In a TV show this conversation happened:

Guy1: This car is crap. I'll buy it for next to nothing?

Guy2: How next to?

I guess the fans of this show will figure out what it is :). Anyway, what does "for next to something" mean? And how is it possible to ask "How next to?".

I think answering the first will lead to the second.

  • 4
    You should ask - 'What does 'next to nothing' mean? It's an idiomatic use. Any dictionary would tell that. For example this – Maulik V Dec 3 '15 at 5:58
  • 2
    @MaulikV I didn't know the whole "next to nothing" is the idiom. I thought I can say "for next to 300 bucks" for example. Now I get it. Thanks. – onlyforthis Dec 3 '15 at 6:05
  • 3
    The second usage is a riff on the idiom and totally non-standard. – Azor Ahai Dec 3 '15 at 6:06
14

"Next to" means "almost" in this case.

Imagine a scale of possible prices, from zero to infinity. What sits immediately next to nothing (zero) on that scale? "Almost nothing."

"How next to?" is a jocose question whose purpose is to determine the degree of "almostness": how close to zero, exactly, is the price? Does "almost nothing" mean a dime, a quarter, or ten dollars?

Closely related is the idiomatic phrase "next door to":

STELLA:
A rhinestone tiara she wore to a costume ball.

STANLEY: What's rhinestone?

STELLA:
Next door to glass.

In this excerpt from A Streetcar Named Desire, a play by Tennessee Williams, Stella explains to Stanley (who thought that he was looking at something valuable) that the tiara is really, really cheap. "Next door to glass" means "Those are not real diamonds. They're fake. They're made of rhinestone. How expensive is rhinestone? Barely more expensive than glass."

4

"Next to nothing" means "nearly no money"; the man is saying he won't pay much for it.

"How next to?" is not standard. It's a play on "next to nothing"; just like someone would ask "How broken is it?" or "How cold are you?", the man is asking "How 'next to' nothing does the price have to be for you to buy it?"

3

Next to = almost, very nearly.

You use the phrase "next to" for people or things that are very near or beside each other; in other words, it means almost or very nearly.

The amount that is next to nothing means the amount that is almost/nearly nothing; it's too small to be expected or wished for.

In light of this definition, the first sentence is clear.

As for the second phrase "How next to?", B wants to know how small the amount is that A will pay.

A. 50 dollars (for example).

2

"Next to nothing" implies that he would not pay anything (or a very negligible amount) for the car. And generally, when someone says "Next to nothing", they mean exactly "nothing", give or take a fractional amount.
The second sentence implies that the second guy acknowledges the fact that the car is worthless and he would take any amount the first guy has to offer. In plain words, "How next to ?" implies "What can you pay me for this crappy car?"

  • 1
    I have to disagree with that entire first paragraph. When somebody says "next to nothing" they generally mean a value barely above nothing, but it's still something. Saying you'd pay next to nothing doesn't imply you wouldn't pay anything, it implies that you'd pay a very low amount. – Anthony Grist Dec 3 '15 at 14:02
1

You plugged the words out of the sentence in a very unfortunate way.

"for next to" is total nonsense. The original sentence should be read as:

I'll buy it for (a very low price). 

And "a very low price" was replaced with "next to nothing" - the number that he is willing to pay isn't nothing, but very close to nothing. The nearest thing to nothing he could think off.

The 2nd guy uses a bit of humour to ask "how close to nothing would your best offer be" - shortened to "How next to". Which isn't proper English, but the kind of English that I might use in humour to play with words.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.