(In written English, only is usually placed immediately before the word it qualifies. In spoken English, however, you can use stress to indicate what only qualifies, so its position is not so important.)
1) ADV: ADV with group, ADV before v You use only to indicate the one thing that is true, appropriate, or necessary in a particular situation, in contrast to all the other things that are not true, appropriate, or necessary.

Only the President could authorize the use of the atomic bomb.

...the guidance and discipline that can be provided only by a strong male...

Only here were the police visible in any strength at all...

44-year-old woman seeks caring, honest male of similar age for friendship and fun. Genuine replies only...

A business can only be built and expanded on a sound financial base...

It's true that I seem to have forgotten you, but it only seems that way.

2) ADV: ADV cl/prep You use only to introduce the thing which must happen before the thing mentioned in the main part of the sentence can happen.

The lawyer is paid only if he wins...

The Bank of England insists that it will cut interest rates only when it is ready...

Dark matter gives out no light and is detectable only because of its gravitational effect on visible matter.

3) ADJ: det ADJ If you talk about the only person or thing involved in a particular situation, you mean there are no others involved in it.

She was the only woman in Shell's legal department...

The only thing I have is television and these four walls...

That left Mr Dertliev as the only candidate.

4) ADJ: ADJ n An only child is a child who has no brothers or sisters.
5) ADV: ADV group, ADV before v You use only to indicate that something is no more important, interesting, or difficult, for example, than you say it is, especially when you want to correct a wrong idea that someone may get or has already got.

At the moment it is only a theory...

`I'm only a sergeant,' said Clements...

Don't get defensive, Charlie. I was only joking.

6) ADV: ADV n/adv (emphasis) You use only to emphasize how small an amount is or how short a length of time is.

Child car seats only cost about ₤10 a week to hire.

...spacecraft guidance systems weighing only a few grams...

My father allowed me only a sip or two of wine with each meal...

I've only recently met him.

7) ADV: ADV n (emphasis) You use only to emphasize that you are talking about a small part of an amount or group, not the whole of it.

These are only a few of the possibilities...

Only a minority of the people supported the Revolution.

8) ADV: modal ADV inf (emphasis) Only is used after `can' or `could' to emphasize that it is impossible to do anything except the rather inadequate or limited action that is mentioned.

For a moment I could say nothing. I could only stand and look...

The police can only guess at the scale of the problem.

9) ADV: ADV before v (emphasis) You can use only in the expressions I only wish or I only hope in order to emphasize what you are hoping or wishing.

I only wish he were here now that things are getting better for me...

We can only hope that the elephants can recover.

10) CONJ-SUBORD Only can be used to add a comment which slightly changes or limits what you have just said. [INFORMAL]

It's just as dramatic as a film, only it's real...

It's a bit like my house, only nicer...

Drop in and see me when you're ready. Only don't take too long about it.

but, except
11) CONJ-SUBORD Only can be used after a clause with `would' to indicate why something is not done. [SPOKEN]

I'd invite you to come with me, only it's such a long way...

I'd be quite happy to go. Only I don't know what my kids would say about living there.

12) ADV: ADV to-inf You can use only before an infinitive to introduce an event which happens immediately after one you have just mentioned, and which is rather surprising or unfortunate.

Ryle tried the Embassy, only to be told that Hugh was in a meeting...

He raced through the living room, only to find the front door closed.

13) ADV: usu ADV adj, also ADV to-inf (emphasis) You can use only to emphasize how appropriate a certain course of action or type of behaviour is.

It's only fair to let her know that you intend to apply...

She appeared to have changed considerably, which was only to be expected.

14) ADV: ADV before v You can use only in front of a verb to indicate that the result of something is unfortunate or undesirable and is likely to make the situation worse rather than better.

The embargo would only hurt innocent civilians...

She says that legalising prostitution will only cause problems.

just, merely
15) PHRASE: V inflects, PHR inf (emphasis) If you say you only have to or have only to do one thing in order to achieve or prove a second thing, you are emphasizing how easily the second thing can be achieved or proved.

Any time you want a babysitter, dear, you only have to ask...

We have only to read the labels to know what ingredients are in foods.

16) PHRASE: PHR before v, PHR adv (emphasis) You can say that something has only just happened when you want to emphasize that it happened a very short time ago.

I've only just arrived...

The signs of an economic revival are only just beginning...

You're only just back from leave.

17) PHRASE: usu PHR before v, PHR with cl/group (emphasis) You use only just to emphasize that something is true, but by such a small degree that it is almost not true at all.

For centuries farmers there have only just managed to survive...

I am old enough to remember the Blitz, but only just...

`I think we could agree on that one.' - `Only just.'

18) PHRASE: PHR adv/adj (emphasis) You can use only too to emphasize that something is true or exists to a much greater extent than you would expect or like.

I know only too well that plans can easily go wrong...

When the new baby comes along it is only too easy to shut out the others.

all too
19) PHRASE: PHR adj (emphasis) You can say that you are only too happy to do something to emphasize how willing you are to do it.

I'll be only too pleased to help them out with any queries.

more than
20) if onlysee if
not onlysee not
the one and onlysee one

English dictionary. 2008.


Look at other dictionaries:

  • Only — On ly, adv. [See {Only}, a.] 1. In one manner or degree; for one purpose alone; simply; merely; barely. [1913 Webster] And to be loved himself, needs only to be known. Dryden. [1913 Webster] 2. So and no otherwise; no other than; exclusively;… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Only — On ly, a. [OE. only, anly, onlich, AS. [=a]nlic, i.e., onelike. See {One}, {and Like}, a.] 1. One alone; single; as, the only man present; his only occupation. [1913 Webster] 2. Alone in its class; by itself; not associated with others of the… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Only — On ly, conj. Save or except (that); an adversative used elliptically with or without that, and properly introducing a single fact or consideration. [1913 Webster] He might have seemed some secretary or clerk . . . only that his low, flat,… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • only — I. adjective Etymology: Middle English, from Old English ānlīc, from ān one more at one Date: before 12th century 1. unquestionably the best ; peerless 2. a. alone in a class or category ; sole < the only one left …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • Only Fools and Horses — Title screen Genre Sitcom Created by John Sullivan …   Wikipedia

  • Only Begotten Daughter —   Cover of first edition (hardcover) …   Wikipedia

  • Only When I Laugh — may refer to: Only When I Laugh (film), a 1981 film based on Neil Simon s play The Gingerbread Lady Only When I Laugh (TV series), a 1970s British sitcom Eric Chappell Henny Backus See also Only When I Larf, a 1968 novel by Len Deighton Only When …   Wikipedia

  • Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… — Infobox Album | Name = Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... Type = studio Artist = Raekwon Released = August 1, 1995 Recorded = 1994–1995 Genre = East Coast hip hop, mafioso rap Length = 73:34 Label = Loud/RCA/BMG Records 07863 66663 Producer = The RZA… …   Wikipedia

  • Only You (Harry Connick Jr. album) — Infobox Album | Name = Only You Type = Album Artist = Harry Connick, Jr. Released = February 3 2004 Recorded = Capitol Studios, Hollywood, CA, May 13 22, 2003 Genre = Pop, Ballads Length = Label = Sony/Columbia Producer = Tracey Freeman Reviews …   Wikipedia

  • Only When I Laugh (film) — For the similarly titled 1968 film, see Only When I Larf (film). Only When I Laugh Only When I Laugh theatrical poster Directed by Glenn Jordan …   Wikipedia

  • Only Unity Saves the Serbs — Flag of the Serbian Orthodox Church …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.