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Fine-Tuning 22--Where Does "Only" Go?

 
 
Roberta
 
Reply Sun 12 Oct, 2003 08:21 am
The adverb only belongs as close as possible to the word it's modifying.

I only thought it would take a minute. WRONG. (The location of only here here suggests that you thought it but didn't say it.)

I thought it would take only a minute. CORRECT.


Other adverbs also belong as close as possible to the words they're modifying. (Such adverbs may include nearly, almost, ever, scarcely, and merely.)

We almost have 5,000 members. WRONG.
We have almost 5,000 members. CORRECT

The position of only can affect the meaning.

Only the committee can select the four nominees. (No one else can do the selecting.)

The committee can only select the four nominees. (The committee can select, not elect.)

The committee can select only the four nominees. (The committee can't select anyone else.)
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Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Sun 12 Oct, 2003 08:29 am
I thought, it was only me, who mostly forgest that 'only etc' has to be properly placed, modifying the word it is meant to.


I actually hate it, when someone starts: "I only thought ...., but ....." - mostly wanting to say:" I oppose, because I think ... ." [Although I do sometimes the very same Embarrassed .]
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Roberta
 
  1  
Reply Sun 12 Oct, 2003 09:28 am
Walter, I do this too, when I'm talking. This kind of thing is a lot easier to catch in writing. I don't know why it's such a common mistake in the spoken language.
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Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Sun 12 Oct, 2003 09:35 am
Similar is (at least in German): "I want to say ...", when they are just exactly saying it. (That's, what I never do!)
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rufio
 
  1  
Reply Sun 12 Oct, 2003 02:38 pm
"I only thought it would take a minute" is correct, it just means something different from "I thought it would take only a minute".
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Roberta
 
  1  
Reply Sun 12 Oct, 2003 06:15 pm
Rufio, Please explain. I'm not disagreeing with you. I just don't understand how "I only thought..." can be correct. How is the meaning different? Thanks.
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rufio
 
  1  
Reply Sun 12 Oct, 2003 10:35 pm
Like, as if you were only thinking about that one thing, not about something else in the near vicinity that could have effected what would normally have taken only a minute. Not that I see much application for that particular sentence, and I agree, I have heard people misuse it, but it does have a possible meaning.

Edit: Come to think of it, there is another way that people typically use it that doesn't mean the same thing as "I thought it would only" etc. I don't know if it's right or not, though. Like, if someone asked you why you stepped out of the room without being permitted, or why you violated some other rule without thinking about the consequences, you would say "I only thought..." meaning that the only think you thought about was how the violation would affect yourself, and not others, or whatever it did effect.
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oristarA
 
  1  
Reply Mon 13 Oct, 2003 11:35 am
Re: Fine-Tuning 22--Where Does "Only" Go?
Roberta wrote:


The position of only can affect the meaning.

Only the committee can select the four nominees. (No one else can do the selecting.)

The committee can only select the four nominees. (The committee can select, not elect.)

The committee can select only the four nominees. (The committee can't select anyone else.)


Nice.
Thanks Roberta.
And these examples can help prove what Rufio said is correct. Smile
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-andrea-
 
  1  
Reply Mon 13 Oct, 2003 11:39 am
ohh i didn't know that *feels ignorant* Very Happy
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Merry Andrew
 
  1  
Reply Mon 13 Oct, 2003 11:53 am
I am only answering this because it is the only new thread that I have chanced upon.

Here you have an example of the same word being used both as an adverb and as an adjective in the same sentence.
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Roberta
 
  1  
Reply Mon 13 Oct, 2003 03:59 pm
rufio wrote:
Like, as if you were only thinking about that one thing, not about something else in the near vicinity that could have effected what would normally have taken only a minute. Not that I see much application for that particular sentence, and I agree, I have heard people misuse it, but it does have a possible meaning.

Edit: Come to think of it, there is another way that people typically use it that doesn't mean the same thing as "I thought it would only" etc. I don't know if it's right or not, though. Like, if someone asked you why you stepped out of the room without being permitted, or why you violated some other rule without thinking about the consequences, you would say "I only thought..." meaning that the only think you thought about was how the violation would affect yourself, and not others, or whatever it did effect.


I don't think that "only thinking about one thing" is correct. You were "thinking about only one thing." Common usage, especially in spoken language, is not necessarily correct usage.
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rufio
 
  1  
Reply Mon 13 Oct, 2003 05:59 pm
How is it being used as an adjective, MA? I see it only describing a verb and an adjective.

You're right, Roberta. My mistake.
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Merry Andrew
 
  1  
Reply Mon 13 Oct, 2003 09:10 pm
The second usage of 'only' makes it an adjective modifying the noun 'thread.' 'Only' and 'new' are both adhectives in this setup.
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oristarA
 
  1  
Reply Tue 14 Oct, 2003 12:45 am
Roberta wrote:


I don't think that "only thinking about one thing" is correct. You were "thinking about only one thing." Common usage, especially in spoken language, is not necessarily correct usage.


Mr.X is used to think this, think that almost in any situation, cos he can never make up his mind. But surprisingly, such a man of feeling won the 10-mile race in the game! Let's listen to what he explained:"I was only thinking about one thing in the race -- I must be the winner!"
Haha, every dog has his day!
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Roberta
 
  1  
Reply Tue 14 Oct, 2003 02:48 am
Not this dog and not this day, Oristar. Mr. X may have won the race, but his comment afterward was not grammatically correct. He was thinking about only one thing in the race. Sorry to burst your bubble.
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rufio
 
  1  
Reply Tue 14 Oct, 2003 12:20 pm
It's not modifying the thread, MA, if it were, this would be both the new thread and the only thread, and it would be possible to reverse the terms only and new to make it to "new only thread" and I don't think you meant any of those by that - this is certainly not the only thread on this board! No, it is simply the only new thread.
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Merry Andrew
 
  1  
Reply Tue 14 Oct, 2003 03:55 pm
Touche, Rufio. 'Only' is modifying the adjective 'new.' Nice catch.
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