I am quoting from The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, The Reigate Squires by Arthur Conan Doyle :"The colonel waved his hand towards my friend and the inspector bowed.'We thought that perhaps you would care to step across, Mr. Holmes'"(end of quote). It is clear from the context that the inspector is asking Holmes if he wanted to intervene in the ongoing investigation, but the usage of 'to step across' confuses me, especially as I couldn't find the verb in online dictionaries. Had he used 'to step into', it would have made sense, but not 'to step across'. Well, at least to me.

  • You haven't provided a link to the full context, which I found here. It's obvious Holmes has just entered the building where the speakers are located. Presumably Holmes lives nearby - probably across the road - and they're saying that they expected him to make that short journey (his visit is not unexpected). Feb 9, 2021 at 12:29
  • No, it was the inspector who just entered the house, while Holmes was lying on the Sofa. and Holmes lives in London, while the events take place in Reigate so again no, your presumption is wrong.
    – aissam
    Feb 9, 2021 at 12:44
  • @FumbleFingers - In fact, Holmes and Watson are staying in Reigate with a friend of Watson's. The murder happened in a neighbour's house. Feb 9, 2021 at 12:55
  • Well, you guys both know more about the context than me. Perhaps the speaker is inviting Holmes to step across the road in the immediate future, rather than pointing out that he made the [expected] "crossing" in the recent past. But the basic meaning of the words (absent context) is hardly something that can justifiably be addressed on ELU, I feel. Feb 9, 2021 at 13:16
  • 1
    'Over' is often used after 'come' in what some would class as an intransitive multi-word verb / phrasal verb. "Why don't you come over and see us?" (The person living 'across town' [or, less figuratively, on the other side of the English Channel / Atlantic etc].) 'Over' is pretty broad; there are few instances where it would sound unnatural.) This is quite probably the late 18th Century equivalent. How exactly synonymous the usages were, I've not much idea. Feb 9, 2021 at 15:36

1 Answer 1


The context is that Holmes and Watson are staying with the Colonel at his house when the butler comes into the room to announce that the coachman at a nearby house (Acton's house) has been murdered. The Colonel and Acton are both men of importance and the houses may therefore be imagined to be large and well separated from each other by grounds and road or drives.

“Ah, then, we’ll step over afterwards,” said the Colonel, coolly settling down to his breakfast again ...

The phrase "step over" means that they will walk to the other house. It refers to taking footsteps from one place to another, perhaps taking steps over the intervening ground or street.

The butler re-enters:

“Inspector Forrester, sir,” said the butler, throwing open the door.

The official ... stepped into the room. “Good-morning, Colonel,” said he; “I hope I don’t intrude, but we hear that Mr. Holmes of Baker Street is here.”

The Colonel waved his hand towards my friend, and the Inspector bowed.

“We thought that perhaps you would care to step across, Mr. Holmes.”

The inspector is inviting Holmes to step across from one house to the other, to walk across the intervening ground or street, similar to step over.


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