grammatical word: only


This week’s grammatical word is “only”, and we have a few different ways of using it in English. Let me go over them for you:

1. We can use it to talk about one thing or person out of a group which is special or different for some reason. For example:

I’m the only person who came to the English class yesterday.

Broccoli is the only vegetable my son will eat.

Chemistry is the only subject I failed in high school.

2. We can use it to minimize the importance of something or someone. For example:

I wish I could help you, but I’m only a junior staff member here.

I’m sick right now, but I’m sure I can still go on this trip. It’s only a stomachache. I’m sure I’ll feel better by tomorrow.

Could you come and help me with my computer? It will only take about 20 minutes.

3. We can use it to give an excuse for why something wasn’t done or why it can’t be done. For example:

I wanted to do my homework, only I was really busy yesterday.

That actress is perfect for that role, only she’s too old for it now.

I really like the design for the ad, only the colors are a little too dark.

4. We can use it to focus on one aspect of something or one group of people. For example:

This product is for women only.

I recommend this CD for heavy metal music fans only.

I’ve finished the first part of the report only.

5. We can use it when talking about a person trying to do something to help, but making the situation worse. For example:

I tried to help, but I only made things worse.

Bill tried to calm the boss down, but he only made him even angrier.

The teacher tried to explain the book to me, but his explanation only made me more confused.

6. We can use it to talk about something that happened in the very recent past. For example:

A: When was the last time you talked to Martin?

B: I talked to him only yesterday. He said he’s very busy these days.

It was only a week ago that Yvette got fired, so she’s still really upset about it.

I only just mailed the invitation to you, so you probably won’t get it until Friday.

7. We can use it to talk about our desire for a certain thing to be done in order to make a certain situation better. For example:

If you would only talk to me; I’m sure it would make you feel better.

If my daughter would only try harder in school; she could be a very good student.

If I could only find a good job; I would be so happy.

I hope the difference between these meanings is clear to everyone. As I’ve mentioned before, the best way to learn how to speak natural English is to memorize sentences and then change the small details. In this way, you will learn vocabulary and grammar at the same time without formally studying them. Good luck!

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