I have come across a sentence in one of my textbooks with which I seem to have some problems. One just needs to translate it, paying attention to the verb "hold" used with the appropriate particles. Here it is:

"That's right, Bill. Hold out against it. Put out your strength. Don't let's get you cheap".

The part of it, marked in bold, quite baffles me. I have stumbled upon a number of misprints in this textbook, so it may well be one of them here, too, but it appears to be a line from the George Bernard Shaw play Major Barbara (1905).

  • Welcome to EL&U. The original source appears to be a George Bernard Shaw play, so I've edited that into your post.
    – choster
    May 15, 2019 at 15:43
  • Thank you so much for your greetings and for editing my question. The point is that I just can't seem to get it right. I wonder what the meaning of this phrase is? - "Get smb cheap". As for "don't let's", this one is clear enough. May 15, 2019 at 15:56
  • Yes, I can't get the whole phrase without knowing what "get you cheap" means. So I'm asking about it now. :) May 15, 2019 at 16:04
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    @choster Sorted now! May 15, 2019 at 16:39

1 Answer 1


Let us

"Let's" is a contraction of "Let us". Expand that, and the sentence is pretty straightforward.

  • Don't let us get you cheap

The meaning here is the literal meaning, but to understand it, you have to see the line in context. The character who says this, Barbara, is trying to get the other character, Bill, to mend his ways and join the Salvation Army.

to not win cheaply

In the quote your sentence comes from, she's goading him, telling him to resist her message as strongly as he can, so that they do not "get" (i.e., convert) him without significant cost.

BARBARA. You're not getting converted, are you?

BILL [with conviction] Not ME. Not likely. Not arf.

BARBARA. That's right, Bill. Hold out against it. Put out your strength. Don't let's get you cheap. ...

"But people don't never speak proper anyhow..."

Finally, grammatically speaking, "cheap" should be "cheaply", as it's an adverb for "to get".

However, Shaw is representing speech, and speech is much more fluid when it comes to grammar. This particular use of adjectives for adverbs is common even today in South-Eastern England, to the point that when I read that line, I immediately imagined a woman from the East End of London saying it.

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    Cheap here is a depictive adjunct, and an adverb cannot be used with the same meaning. Another example might be eat fish raw, which can't be rephrased as eat fish rawly. The adjective describes you, not get. May 15, 2019 at 16:44
  • For what it's worth, Merriam-Webster agrees with KrisW that in this kind of usage "cheap" is an adverb rather than an adjunct, but also does not seem to regard this usage as dialectical or improper. merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cheap It's interesting, too, that the second usage example in the definition I've linked to comes from a passage of dialogue ascribed to a character who is depicted as quite well-spoken. (He's a journalist in a Sherlock Holmes story.)
    – Nanigashi
    May 15, 2019 at 17:04
  • Many thanks to all of you for clarifying my question. I see daylight now. May 15, 2019 at 17:13
  • @Nanigashi I think it's also significant that the Sherlock Holmes quotation you found is from a story that is set in the same time and place as Shaw's play: London at the turn of the 20th Century.
    – KrisW
    May 15, 2019 at 17:57
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    Actually Barbara is not 'a woman from the East End', she's a girl from a wealthy family who has chosen to work as a Salvation Army officer. I expect she is deliberately speaking in a language that Bill will understand. May 16, 2019 at 7:55

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