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Grammar

The use of

Only
In answer to the tough question about the most appropriate use of "only"
in a grammatically, syntactically and semantically correct sentence, I'll try to
concentrate more on how the placement of only in the sentence is meaning
controlling. In other words, the use of only as a modifier of a word should be
placed directly before the word or clause to be modified.

"Only" is so disturbing as a modifier because its placement in the
utterance counts much to the meaning you want to convey. Be it an "adjective" or
an "adverb", the word "Only" could affect the meaning of what you want to say
if you don't carefully use it in your statement. As an adjective, "only" is almost
controllable; but all the trouble which comes from "only" is only when it is used
as an adverb. "This is my only child": this implies that I have no other children
and "only" here is used as an adjective. Thus, there is no problem at all. Still
which is correct then: Is it, "IT'S ONLY ME!" or is it, "IT'S ONLY I!"?
According to grammarians, it is the second. But most people use the first on the
basis that, "A mistaken sentence that makes me understood is better that a
correct sentence that makes a jerk of me"; what a mess!

Oooonlyyyyy youuuuuuuuu:
1. Only Susan drank a cup of tea.
This simply indicates that nobody else did but only Susan.

Examples:
* Only you could solve this problem.
* Only Peter is able to use this computer.
* Only my mother makes good cakes.
* Only Ali is going with us to Marrakech.

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Though we feel it is final, definite or even exaggerated when "only"
precedes the subject intending to modify it, this means that we want our
listener or reader to understand that the subject be it (Susan, you, Peter or my
mother as in the examples above) could do the deeds (actions) attributed to
them but nobody else.

2. Susan only drank a glass of tea.
This means that she didn't do anything else but drank.

Examples
* She only reads the headlines.
* We are only looking at the items.
* They only checked their e-mails and left.
* Johnny only said "Hello" and sat down.

When "only" precedes the verb, this implies that the listener or reader is
meant to understand that the subject be it (She, we, They or Johnny as in the
examples above) did but only the deeds (actions) stated in the sentences.

3. Susan drank only a glass of tea.
which means that she didn't drink another.

Examples
* Leila played only tennis.
* The guests ate only vegetables.
* They accepted only signed papers.
* Vicky took only one aspirin.

When "only" follows the verb, this means that you cannot ask the subject
to do something else except the one or ones mentioned after “only”. That’s to
say that you cannot ask Leila to play another game as she plays only but tennis.
As well, you wouldn’t invite the guests to share your barbeque because they are
vegetarians and so on.

4. Susan drank a glass of tea only.
which means that she didn't drink a cup of coffee or something else.

Examples:
* Leila plays tennis only.
* The guests eat vegetables only.
* They accept signed papers only.
* Vicky takes the bus only for her errands.

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When "only" is final, the meaning depends on many other factors such as
intonation, tone and emphasis. We previously mentioned the sentence, “It’s my
only child” and we said that “only” is used here as an adjective and it implicates
that the speaker has only but that “unique” son. Now, someone did a blunder and
someone else came and said, “It’s a boy only!” He projected to state that it is
not harmful as the go-getter is only but someone not to be taken critically.
Despite the fact that it seems a far fetched way of saying it, this utterance is
likely to be most expressed by non-native speakers.

“The club is for old people only”. There is exception here. Nobody is
allowed in the club except for old people. Only old people are admissible. “Only”
here modifies the word before it, notably “old people”.

QUIZ ME!
What is meant by these sentences? Copy down the appropriate
explanation in the blanks.
1. Only John bought a book. _______________________________
2. John only bought a book. _______________________________
3. John bought only a book. _______________________________
4. John bought a book only. _______________________________

• He didn't do anything else.
• He didn't buy anything else
• He didn't buy a pencil.
• Nobody else bought a book.

Key page 4

Annotations
Generally speaking some of the examples above are far fetched and
sometimes overstated. Any slight misplacement of “only” would prompt a
disaster as far as meaning is concerned; therefore you should always try to
avoid using most of them if you are not sure. There are other ways to say the
same thing without too much care for preventing any possible misunderstanding
a sentence with 'only' would bring about. I advise you to push 'only' towards
modifying the exact word in the sentence as a safe way to make your message
clear and void of any ambiguity possible. Be careful as to what word ‘only’ is used
to modify. See what I mean. Can you say which of the following utterances
conveys the meaning intended properly?!

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• I only will come if you invite me.
• I will come only if you invite me.

• I am only interested in English grammar.
• I am interested in English grammar only.

This is on one hand; on the other hand you can in some cases replace ‘only’ with
‘just’:

• I saw her only yesterday.
• I saw her just yesterday.

• Ali only put the book on the table in silence and left.
• Ali just put the book on the table in silence and left.

Finally, in order for you to be comprehensible and for your message to be
ambiguity-free, please do avoid the misplacement of “only” in your utterances!

Key: 1. d - 2. b - 3. a - 4. c

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