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XiaoDeng
only only "Be compassionate, and take responsibility for each other. " Morrie whispered. If we only learned those lessons, this world would be so much better a place. What does only mean here? I looked it up, but but couldn't find a suitable explanation. re-edit: I have no trouble understanding "if only".
Sep 16, 2019 3:45 AM
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Answers · 9
To me, it is ambiguous. Gdanning's comment is correct, that we often say 'if only' to mean "I wish we had". However the normal phrasing for that would be " If only we learned those". But it could certainly mean that, and therefore the meaning is "the world would be better if we learned those two things". The other alternative is that 'only' means 'none other', and the suggestion is that we should only learn those two things, and not learn anything else. However, in context, that seems very strange (and frankly stupid, since we wouldn't learn very much). As I said - it's ambiguous. It could be either. But does it really matter?
September 16, 2019
I think the meaning of the idea, 'if only' is quite simple. If only I had worked harder - If I had done this one thing, that is worked harder! Similarly, 'if only we learned these lessons', simply if we learned these lessons'. The 'only' acts as an intensifier, making the sense stronger. If people were kinder the world would be a better place, if only people were kinder the world would be a better place'. The second version is stronger. Hope this helps!
September 16, 2019
'only learned' means 'just/merely/solely learned'. "If we only learned those lessons" could be rewritten as "If we learned (just/merely) those lessons and no others". The speaker is saying that the world would be a better place simply by the lessons of being compassionate and taking responsibility. If the speaker had used past perfect (had learned), there would be a sense of regret in not taking those lessons. But in the tense the speaker uses the sense of 'regret' is more ambiguous. It may or may not be there.
September 16, 2019
I dont think it means other lessons would make the world worse. It means that the lesson would make the world better by itself. Eg: Someone can say both, "If only I had brought a map, i would not be lost" and also "if only I had asked for directions, I would not be lost. Also, in the USA at least, "if only" is usually used to mean, "I wish" (I wish I had brought a map = if only I had brought a map)
September 16, 2019
To paraphrase your sentence: If those lessons were the only ones we learned, this world would be a much better place. Only here is excluding all other lessons. It's saying that if other lessons were taught, the world would be worse. Another use of only is below. It has a very different meaning than the sentence above. If only we had learned those lessons, this world would be a better place. I'm thinking that the sentence should have been this one. It is expressing a sense of longing and regret that the lessons hadn't been learned.
September 16, 2019
XiaoDeng
Language Skills
Chinese (Other), English
Learning Language
English