Alone vs only

Hello everyone,

I'd like to know if "alone" and "only" have the same meaning and sound natural/idiomatic in the contexts below. Please take a look.

- The diet alone isn't enough. You must exercise to lose weight.
- Only the diet isn't enough. You must exercise to lose weight.

Alone/only definition: without anything else included.


Thank you very much in advance!
 
  • Alxmrphi

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Hi Xavier,

    No these have very different meanings and the second doesn't sound idiomatic.
    Given the sentence that follows it's clear only the first one sounds idiomatic.

    Premodification with only entails "only this <out of a group of other possibilities>", while postmodification with alone specifies "not just <noun> (but ... something else)", which is what you want to express here.
     

    Silas Marner

    New Member
    English - Britain & Canada
    I'm amazed at how complicated language can get.
    I agree with Alxmrphi, but when I read the two choices I twirled the second one round until it became idiomatic in my mind:
    I've tried this diet and that diet: every diet under the sun. Only the diet isn't enough. You must exercise to lose weight. Here I think "only" has changed its meaning to "except".
    Another example:
    They bombed Libya again and again and again. Only airstrikes didn't work. They needed boots on the ground.
    Switching back to the other nuance of only: Only boots on the ground worked.
    Does that make any sense to you Alxmrphi, or am i missing something?
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    "Dieting only isn't enough..." but it isn't as good as "Dieting on its own..."
     

    Alxmrphi

    Senior Member
    UK English
    How can I use "only" in the sentence below, so that "only" acquires the same meaning as "alone"?:
    See what Paul said in #5, though I echo his views about it not sounding too great.

    I've tried this diet and that diet: every diet under the sun. Only the diet isn't enough. You must exercise to lose weight. Here I think "only" has changed its meaning to "except".
    The first three or four times I read your example sentence I was convinced it was wrong, I couldn't register how it could make sense, it's all in the intonation. A fully pronounced ('heavy') "only" renders the whole thing very weird for me. As soon as I read a quick ('light') "only" with an invisible 'that' the meaning became clear as day.

    And yes, it would be like 'except (that) the diet (in the scheme of ways to lose weight) isn't enough, you need to..'.. so correctness goes far beyond even what we can write on a forum like this, where the same sentence can be interpreted as fine and awful:

    I've tried this diet and that diet: every diet under the sun. Only the diet isn't enough. You must exercise to lose weight:thumbsdown:
    I've tried this diet and that diet: every diet under the sun. Only (that) the diet isn't enough. You must exercise to lose weight:thumbsup:

    There also has to be an understanding of 'the diet', requiring the article needs to be conceived as one part of a larger list of activities aimed to address the goal, otherwise the use of the article seems to be odd, too. To sum it up perfectly, I'll repeat your first line ("
    I'm amazed at how complicated language can get.")
     
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    Silas Marner

    New Member
    English - Britain & Canada
    Alxmrphi, yeah, you're right; there is an understood "that" in there! I was thinking (but I forgot the thought!) of putting a comma between "only" and "diet" to give that feeling that "only" was in a separate clause from the diet.
    Well, that was interesting.
     

    gazs9c

    Member
    Azerbaijani
    Hello everyone
    I would appreciate if someone make a comment on my case. I come to worksite alone. In fact there have to be two employee including me. 12 hours on dayshift and 12 hours on nightshift. Now during pre-shift meeting I want point out that I have no backtoback on site and I will work alone. How to express it correctly? I did say as follow so far:
    I am here alone.
    I will work on my own.
    I am single man here.
    Can you show me correct way of saying it? thanks in advance
     

    Giorgio Spizzi

    Senior Member
    Italian
    Hullo, Silas, and welcome to the forum.

    I was going to propose the insertion of a comma between only and the diet. Too late. You came first :)

    "I've tried this diet and that diet: every diet under the sun. Only, the diet isn't enough. You must exercise to lose weight."
    Obviously, when pronounced, the adverb only has its own intonation contour, separated from that for the diet isn't enough.

    GS :)
     

    Silas Marner

    New Member
    English - Britain & Canada
    First: Hi, GS. Caught your comment today!
    gazs9c: If they haven't got the picture after your comments, they ain't never goin' to get it!! What you said is easily comprehensible.
    All e2efour's comments are right (well, he is from the UK!:))
    But for me it's OK for you to say: I am here alone
    and also I will work on my own e2efours is using the future and then the future continuous (?) to point out what is going to happen because you are on your own. Your way of saying it with those 2 phrases did not imply that you had any problem with the situation of being alone.
    And, as e2efours also pointed out: I am single man here - is wrong - we would say more, "I am a single man here", but that would mean that you weren't married yet. You could say, "I am one single person here", but that's a complicated way of saying it, but stresses the fact that you are alone. "All alone" does the same thing, but I should stop!
    I like backup (back-to-back's wrong). If you were a young guy you would maybe say, informally, "No-one's got my back."
    Anyway, you watch yourself on that site =take care on that site, gazs9c!
     

    gazs9c

    Member
    Azerbaijani
    Silas Marner, <<& no longer with us>>, and e2efour thank you all. I really appreciate your help!
     
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