"I only have a book" vs "I only have one book"

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Kwiziq community member

30 December 2017

4 replies

"I only have a book" vs "I only have one book"

Hi, I'm wondering about the difference between "I only have a book" and "I only have one book", which mean distinct things. It seemed to me that "Je n'ai qu'un livre" would be the former when I encountered it first. Is there anything that would differentiate the two English sentences? (No biggie, just wondering.)

This question relates to:
French lesson "Restrictive ne … que = only (simple tenses)"


Kwiziq community member

30 December 2017


Je n'en ai que un. I suggest that this would explain that "you only have one book" provided the context of what was being discussed mentioned books. I agree that Je n'ai qu'un livre, translates to "I only have a book" Hope this helps. Alan (Jim)


Kwiziq community member

31 December 2017


Cheers. :)


Kwiziq language super star

2 January 2018


Bonjour Nev !

That's an interesting question :)

Je n'ai qu'un livre would be the neutral equivalent to I only have a/one book when there's no emphasis on "one".

However, if you wanted to insist on the fact that you have "only one", in French you would use the adjective seul, as such:

Je n'ai qu'un seul livre.  (Literally: I only have one book alone.
Bonne journée !


Kwiziq community member

17 July 2018


the difference in English is ´I have only one book’ (not ten books) AND ´ I only have one book’ (all I own is one book...my only belonging...)

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