Community Web Version Now Available
Robert Leko
'ONLY' in sentences Hello there! Where all can we place the word 'only' in sentences and how does the meaning of the sentence change with 'only' differently positioned? And secondly, are just and only interchangeable? Thank you!
Aug 23, 2018 10:51 AM
6
0
Answers · 6
Hey Robert, I shall provide you with information on the usage of ''only'' in sentences. Firstly, you should know that besides being used as an adjective (e.g.: ''He is the only one who survived the fire''), the word ''only'' is, if anything, more commonly used as an adverb to say that something is the one thing that is done, that happens, or that is relevant in a particular situation, in contrast to all the other things that are not done, do not happen, or are not relevant. 1) If 'only' applies to the 'subject' of a sentence, then you put it in front of the subject: ''Only his close friends knew him well''. ''We believe that only a completely different approach will be effective''. 2) If the verb is 'be', you put 'only' after it. E.g.: ''There is only one thing we should do''. 3) If the verb is not 'be' and 'only' does not apply to the subject, you usually put it in front of the verb or after the first auxiliary verb, regardless of what it applies to. For example, instead of saying 'I see my brother only at weekends', you usually say 'I only see my brother at weekends'. 4) When used for emphasis (if you wish to be rather clear or emphatic about something), you have two options: you may put 'only' either immediately in front of the word/clause to which it applies or after it; the latter is used for extra emphasis. E.g.: ''He played only classical music''. E.g.: ''We insisted on being interviewed by women journalists only. 5) ''Only'' and ''Just'': Sometimes they can be used interchangeably (with the meaning of ''no more than...''), but not always. E.g.: ''I only have three kids.'' or ''I just have three kids.'' (both words work in this case) Now, have a look at these examples: E.g.: ''I have just fixed your car''. (You car has been fixed by me a few moments/minutes ago) E.g.: ''I have only fixed your car''. (no other cars have been fixed by me, other than yours!) Can you tell the difference now? Hope you have understood it! :)
August 23, 2018
May I provide you with additional information? * Some usage guides hold that misunderstanding will arise if the modifier ''only'' is not placed immediately before what it modifies. For example, consider the following sentence: ''The doctor examined the children''. Inserting ''only'' in it might produce 'ambiguity' in written English: 1) ''The doctor examined only the children'' would signify that no one else was examined; 2) ''The doctor only examined the children'' could indicate either that the doctor did nothing else or that no one else was examined. In all varieties of speech and writing there has long been a tendency to place 'only' before the verb in a sentence regardless of what it modifies. In spoken English, the intended meaning may be conveyed by stressing the construction to which 'only' applies.
August 23, 2018
Thank you, Paul! Yes, you are right. I have also come across so many different ways of their use myself and that is why I am confused oftentimes. Your examples, however, have now helped me to unravel these constructions. Cheers!
August 23, 2018
That is a hard question. Sometimes the words ONLY and JUST can be interchangeable but not always. Example 1 with different meanings. I've just read your message. (I read your message 5 minutes ago) I've only read your message. (I have not read messages from anybody else) I've only just read your message. (I read your message 2 seconds ago). Example 2 (the same meaning) Do you have any children? Just one. (person has one child) Only one. (person has one child) You may hear JUST at the end of a sentence, for example, We won that game of football, just. It would be saying we scored the winning goal in the last minute. There are so many variations which is why it is so difficult to answer.
August 23, 2018
Robert Leko
Language Skills
English, Hungarian, Serbian
Learning Language
English