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Only

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Only

Hello! In this lesson we will learn to use the word "only" in several ways. The word "only" is a very versatile word which can be used as an adjective, an adverb, and as a conjunction.
When we use the word "only" as an adjective, it means alone or sole. For example, when we discuss a family which has one child, we might say "That child is an only child.". "An only child has no brothers or sisters.". Or, for example, at the end of the workday, after everyone else has gone home, sometimes "David is the only worker in the office.".
When we use the word "only" as an adverb, it has several meanings. It can mean alone or solely. For example, "Only one man works in the office." -- This might mean that one man works in the office with 25 women, or there is only one worker in the office, and the worker is a man.
The adverb "only" can also mean very recently or as recently as a certain time. For example, we might say "Jennifer called James only last week.", which means Jennifer called him as recently as last week.
When we use the word "only" as a conjunction, it joins words, phrases, or clauses. When it is used as a conjunction, it means "except" or "however".  For example, Jennifer might say "You can work late. Only please come home for dinner."
The placement of the word "only" has some effect on its meaning. We tend to place the word "only" as close as possible to the word or phrase that it modifies. For example, we might say "It only rained on Monday."  In this sentence, we mean that it rained, but it did not thunder on Monday. With this sentence, we might think that it rained every day, however on every day except Monday, the weather was more complicated than on Monday.  We might say "It rained only on Monday.", which might mean that the other days were dry, and Monday was the only day on which it rained. We might also say "It rained on Monday only.", which would express the same idea. And finally, we might say "Only it rained on Monday." In this example,maybe we were planning a bike outing on Monday, which was impossible because it rained on Monday.
So you can see that the little word "only" is another little word which is important to learn. Let us listen to the dialog. Pay attention to the varying usages of the word "only".

Jennifer:  David, were you the only person in the office?
David:  Only after 5:30.
Jennifer:  Were you the only one there after 5:30?
David: Yes, only I decided to come home at 5:35.
Jennifer: Only you did not come home.
David: I only stopped to buy a hamburger; only there was a lot of traffic.

Jennifer begins the conversation by asking "David, were you the only person in the office?". In this question, Jennifer wants to know if David was working alone in the office. The word "only" is used as an adjective.
David responds by saying "Only after 5:30.". In his answer, David means that he was working alone after 5:30, but not before 5:30. We can assume that other people were working in the office until 5:30. But the other people probably left the office at 5:30, when David started working alone. In this case, the word "only" is used as an adverb.
Jennifer asks "Were you the only one there after 5:30?". In this case, she uses the word "one" as a pronoun to refer to "person" or "worker". She is reiterating her first question – she wants to know if David was working alone after 5:30.
David answers, "Yes, only I decided to come home at 5:35.". This sentence means: (translate) However, I decided to come home at 5:35. So perhaps David changed his mind about working late. In this case, the word "only" is used as a conjunction.
Jennifer says, "Only you did not come home.". This is a contrast to David's assertion that he decided to come home at 5:35. Although David decided to come home at 5:35, Jennifer says he did not come home.  The word "only" is used as a conjunction in this sentence.
David says "I only stopped to buy a hamburger. Only there was a lot of traffic.". In this case, with the first use of the word "only", he means that he stopped merely for the purpose of buying a hamburger. He did not stop for any other reason. The word "only" is used as an adverb.  The second use of the word "only" is its use as a conjunction. It means: however there was a lot of traffic. In this case, the word "only" is used as a conjunction.
Now that you have examined the usages of the word "only", listen to the dialog again. Pay attention to the varying usages of the word "only".
Jennifer:  David, were you the only person in the office?
David:  Only after 5:30.
Jennifer:  Were you the only one there after 5:30?
David: Yes, only I decided to come home at 5:35.
Jennifer: Only you did not come home.
David: I only stopped to buy a hamburger; only there was a lot of traffic.

Great! I this lesson, you have learned the very useful word "only". It can be used to refine your meaning when you speak English.  Start using it today in your English conversations.