Only vs Just

Artrella

Banned
BA
Spanish-Argentina
Hi, here's this sentence >> My dad has just stolen a cigarette!!!! He's only a fool!

My questions are > are they interchangeable? Are these words always interchangeable? In which cases they are not?
What's the difference between "only" and "just" in this sentence and in general?

Thank you!
 
  • Kelly B

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Hi! In this case the words have entirely different meanings. "Just" in this context means "immediately before this."
    "Only" here sounds a little odd, but nevertheless it has its common meaning of "simply." It could be replaced with "just," in which case "just" would have two different meanings in one sentence.

    Just can also mean legally right, or fair: nobody noticed him, but I did jail time for stealing a candy bar. It's just not just!;)
     

    elroy

    Imperfect Mod
    US English/Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    "Just" has a whole tapestry of meanings:

    ***very recently - I just woke up.

    ***only - I just want a pen. I was just asking a question

    ***fair - He's not a just businessman.

    ***simply - Just knock on the door when you're through. He's just an idiot.

    ***at the exact time that - Just when you think you haven't forgotten anything, you remember that you did.

    ***right at the point - I was just about to do that.

    There are probably others that escape me; anyone can feel free to add to the list! :)

    "Only" is possible as a replacement for "just" only when "just" means "only" (I know that sounds tautological, but I was just trying to emphasize that they are not always interchangeable.)

    Similarly, "just" is not always possible as a replacement for "only."

    ***When "only" modifies a noun, "just" is not a synonym.

    He is my only brother.
    That was the only time I ever did that.

    ***When "only" is an adverb, "just" is usually a synonym.

    I only wanted to ask a question.

    ***But not always:

    He only ever calls when he needs something. ("He calls just when he needs something" is possible but would mean something else [5th definition above])

    ***Sometimes the function of "only" is ambiguous, and that makes "just" permissible.

    I only have one brother. = I have only one brother. (Is "only" an adjective or an adverb here? You can decide that it's an adverb and say "I just have one brother" - or "I have just one brother" which alters the emphasis)

    Basically, the meaning of "just" (except for the 3rd definition) is always adverbial. "Only" can be adjectival or adverbial, but it's not always easy to tell.

    Wow - I hope I've helped and not led to more confusion!
     

    Artrella

    Banned
    BA
    Spanish-Argentina
    elroy said:
    "Just" has a whole tapestry of meanings:

    ***very recently - I just woke up.

    ***only - I just want a pen. I was just asking a question

    ***fair - He's not a just businessman.

    ***simply - Just knock on the door when you're through. He's just an idiot.

    ***at the exact time that - Just when you think you haven't forgotten anything, you remember that you did.

    ***right at the point - I was just about to do that.

    There are probably others that escape me; anyone can feel free to add to the list! :)

    "Only" is possible as a replacement for "just" only when "just" means "only" (I know that sounds tautological, but I was just trying to emphasize that they are not always interchangeable.)

    Similarly, "just" is not always possible as a replacement for "only."

    ***When "only" modifies a noun, "just" is not a synonym.

    He is my only brother.
    That was the only time I ever did that.

    ***When "only" is an adverb, "just" is usually a synonym.

    I only wanted to ask a question.

    ***But not always:

    He only ever calls when he needs something. ("He calls just when he needs something" is possible but would mean something else [6th definition above])

    ***Sometimes the function of "only" is ambiguous, and that makes "just" permissible.

    I only have one brother. = I have only one brother. (Is "only" an adjective or an adverb here? You can decide that it's an adverb and say "I just have one brother" - or "I have just one brother" which alters the emphasis)

    Basically, the meaning of "just" (except for the 3rd definition) is always adverbial. "Only" can be adjectival or adverbial, but it's not always easy to tell.

    Wow - I hope I've helped and not led to more confusion!

    Elroy :eek: !!! Brilliant...as usual... of course you have helped me a lot!!! :thumbsup: Thank you very much.
     

    lsp

    Senior Member
    NY
    US, English
    elroy said:
    You're most welcome. I was just trying to help. ;)
    That was just genius! If we had a library of brilliant, comprehensive posts, your post #3 would be the ne plus ultra of helpful posts.
     

    elroy

    Imperfect Mod
    US English/Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    lsp said:
    That was just genius! If we had a library of brilliant, comprehensive posts, your post #3 would be the ne plus ultra of helpful posts.
    Is there a blushing smiley??!!

    If not, I guess a big THANK YOU and a genuine expression of pleasure at having been helpful will have to suffice. :)
     

    lsp

    Senior Member
    NY
    US, English
    elroy said:
    Is there a blushing smiley??!!

    If not, I guess a big THANK YOU and a genuine expression of pleasure at having been helpful will have to suffice. :)
    Mind you, this won't even the scales, but I can help you with this. Yes, elroy, there is a blushing smiley, though there's no need for you to have used it :eek:
     

    elroy

    Imperfect Mod
    US English/Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    Thanks again, lsp. :)

    On second thought, I realized that "only" in these sentences

    I only have one brother. = I have only one brother.
    actually has to be an adverb (modifying "have" or "one" in the first sentence and "one" in the second), so "just" is definitely allowed.

    It couldn't modify "brother" unless there were a "the" (or other determiner) before it.
     

    Oros

    Senior Member
    Korean
    I would toe the line with elroy here.

    He has only stolen a cigarette.

    So it was possible to stole some other stuff too. For some reason he choose to steal a cigarette. This is just pilferage.
     

    elroy

    Imperfect Mod
    US English/Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    Oros said:
    I would toe the line with elroy here.

    He has only stolen a cigarette.

    So it was possible to stole some other stuff too. For some reason he choose to steal a cigarette. This is just pilferage.
    Well, the preferable word order to emphasize that would be "He has stolen only a cigarette."

    "He has only stolen a cigarette" means "the only thing he did was steal a cigarette" [as opposed to spilling the milk, too]
     
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