'Only' in the end

kritika

Senior Member
India - Hindi & English
Hi,

Is it okay to end a sentence with the word 'Only'? The other day I was talking to someone and I said 'It cannot be done for you ONLY'- I wanted to put emphasis on the word only to let the person know he wasn't special than anyone else. Later I thought if the sentence was grammatically correct or should I have said 'It cannot be done only for you'.

What I feel is I would place the word 'only' at the end for negative sentence and not for positive sentneces. example: 'It cannot be done for you ONLY' but 'It cean only be done for you'

Please let me know your thoughts on this. Thanks!
 
  • entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    'Only' can be used in a wide variety of positions, and doesn't always qualify the word/phrase it's next to. (See many previous threads on 'only', I'm sure, for more discussion about this.) In final position it can only refer to the phrase before it - which is an advantage, as it makes it clear. But it's unusual. In the sentence I just wrote, 'only' referred to 'the phrase before it', but I naturally wrote it as I did, not 'In final position it can refer to the phrase before it only'.

    Okay, the addition 'before it' confuses matters perhaps. Simplify it: In final position it can refer to the previous phrase only. Well, yes, this does have the intended meaning, but needs emphasis in speech. It's not a very natural unemphatic way of saying it.
     

    kritika

    Senior Member
    India - Hindi & English
    Thanks Entangledbank!
    Could you also tell me if both the phrases are gramatically correct?
    'It cannot be done for you ONLY' but 'It cannot only be done for you'
    Thanks
     
    Last edited:

    msquared

    New Member
    english
    In final position it can only refer to the phrase before it
    I get what you are trying to say, but I still believe 'only' needs to be closer to the phrase it is modifying than it is in your example. You are modifying "refer to" in your example, indicating that it cannot do anything else but refer to the phrase before it (Can it clarify the phrase before it? Not in your sentence. Can it modify the phrase before it? Not in your sentence.) The meaning is slightly unclear, when you consider that you are trying to say that it refers to 'only the phrase before it', not other phrases. Maybe I am wrong.
     

    Englishmypassion

    Senior Member
    India - Hindi
    I wouldn't say 1a.; that's not natural. The others are fine. The second sentence in the second pair is probably a bit more formal than the first.
     

    Tyrion Lann

    Senior Member
    INDIA -Hindi
    'It cannot be done for you ONLY'
    I think it's grammatically correct.
    Like
    1 this pub is only for members.
    2 this pub is for members only.

    1 & 2 are identical & interchangeable, but in your case whether they work interchangeably, I doubt it.

    When I say 'It cannot be done for you ONLY'
    I emphasise on "you + the whole sentence" so this line could mean
    That "it can be done for anybody but not for you".
    Though, you wanted to say " it can't be done only for any one person", didn't you.

    So, in my opinion, 'It cannot be done only for you'. Is the right way to say it with less ambiguity.
     
    Last edited:

    Tyrion Lann

    Senior Member
    INDIA -Hindi
    Are these correct too?

    1a- This is only him.
    1b- This is him only.

    2a- I want only this book.
    2b-I want this book only.

    They are not similar, I think some of them are wrong even.
    A: This " is only" him.
    Eg:- He "is only" eighteen.

    B: "This is him" only.
    C: I "only want" this book.
    D: I want "only this book".
    E: "I want this book" only.

    As you see the last two aren't same.
    If only is used after "be" it would focus on be only: like A.
    If only is used before main verb it would focus on the main verb. eg C.

    If it's used after main verb focus on the object. Like D.

    If it's used at the end of sentence it would focus on the whole sentence. Like B, E.
     

    pickarooney

    Senior Member
    English (Ireland)
    The forum name is literally 'English Only'...

    It could be called 'Only English' but it wouldn't sound quite right to my ears.

    I only speak English
    I speak only English
    I speak English only

    These all have the same meaning and sound equally fine to me.
     

    Tyrion Lann

    Senior Member
    INDIA -Hindi
    I "only speak" British English, though I know American English too.
    I speak "only British English" because it comes naturally to me.
    "I speak British English" only; I'm really bad at AmE.

    There must be some subtle differences among the above three.
     

    pickarooney

    Senior Member
    English (Ireland)
    The first one could be used to mean I speak English but do not write or read it
    The third one might mean that I am able to speak other languages but choose not to.
     

    Tyrion Lann

    Senior Member
    INDIA -Hindi
    The first one could be used to mean I speak English but do not write or read it
    The third one might mean that I am able to speak other languages but choose not to.
    Exactly, in 1st example "only" focusing on the verb "speak" and in the last one it focuses on the whole sentence " I speak British English".

    Apart from this, you could add whatever you want in those sentences.
     
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