position of only

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Senior Member
Argentine Spanish
I´d like to know if there´s any difference in meaning of "only" in these sentences:
1. Only the waiter brought me an omelette. (Here I understand that was not the cook or the maitre)
2. The waiter brought me only an omelette.
3. The waiter brought me an omelette only.
4. The waiter only brought me an omelette.
Thanks for any help
  • Chris K

    Senior Member
    English / US
    The first states that the waiter, and no other person, brought you an omelette. It says nothing about whether he brought you other food as well.

    The rest state the the waiter brought you an omelette, and nothing more. The fourth could be understood to mean the same as the first, depending on emphasis, but it would be a little unusual.


    Senior Member
    To add to Chris's (great) explanation... In the fourth one, it could also mean that bringing the omelette was the only thing the waiter did for you. E.g., "I didn't know if I should leave a tip or not. The waiter only brought me an omelette. He didn't offer me a drink or anything".


    Senior Member
    Spanish - Uruguay
    There is a ton of literature on 'scope and focus of "only" ', particularly by James McCawley. Check the web. In theory, they all mean something different, in the lines of what Chris K said.
    You'll find examples of 'I only washed my hair with shampoo' (I didn't drink it), I washed only my hair ... (not my body), I washed my hair only with shampoo (not whisky or maple syrup), etc.

    Check this one:

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