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The correct meaning for the different positions of 'only' in an English sentence.

DonB1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

The correct meaning for the different positions of 'only' in an English sentence.

In English, we can put the word 'only' almost anywhere in the sentence and mean different things. And, yes, you are right that in some places in can be ambiguous such as the example you provided, but that example shouldn't be ambiguous. Americans have gotten lazy.

1) Only he eats pasta on Sundays. (Not his sister.)

2) He only eats pasta on Sundays. (He doesn't buy it, play with it, make it,...)

3) He eats only pasta on Sunday. (He eats nothing else on Sunday.)

4) He eats pasta only on Sunday. (Not on any other day of the week. -or- similar to #3, just pasta on Sunday.)

5) He eats pasta on only Sunday. (needs more, "... on only one Sunday of the year.")

6) He eats pasta on Sunday only. (Not on any other day of the week.)

Asked 1 year ago
CécileKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

Hi Don,

1. Lui seul mange des pâtes le dimanche

2. doesn't make sense

3. Il ne mange que des pâtes le dimanche

4. Il ne mange des pâtes que le dimanche

5. incorrect grammatically/ same as 4

6. Il ne mange des pâtes que le dimanche /same as 4 

AnneB2Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

"2) He only eats pasta on Sundays. (He doesn't buy it, play with it, make it)"

I think number 2 makes good sense, applying "only" to the verb and with the spoken emphasis on "eats": otherwise the meaning could be the same as 3 or 4.  What a versatile and slippery word it is...

The correct meaning for the different positions of 'only' in an English sentence.

In English, we can put the word 'only' almost anywhere in the sentence and mean different things. And, yes, you are right that in some places in can be ambiguous such as the example you provided, but that example shouldn't be ambiguous. Americans have gotten lazy.

1) Only he eats pasta on Sundays. (Not his sister.)

2) He only eats pasta on Sundays. (He doesn't buy it, play with it, make it,...)

3) He eats only pasta on Sunday. (He eats nothing else on Sunday.)

4) He eats pasta only on Sunday. (Not on any other day of the week. -or- similar to #3, just pasta on Sunday.)

5) He eats pasta on only Sunday. (needs more, "... on only one Sunday of the year.")

6) He eats pasta on Sunday only. (Not on any other day of the week.)

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