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'Only' and 'Just'

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Many of us confuse the words only and just which is not really surprising especially since in some situations they are interchangeable as they can have the same use.

Here are the main uses of both words.

'Only' has many different uses which makes it a very busy word. It can be an adjective, and adverb and a conjunction.

Here are some examples of 'only' as an adverb:
Mozart was only five when he started composing.
I only expect you to listen to what I have to say.
It's only an idea.
When 'only' is used as an adverb is can be replaced by 'just'.
So the examples above don’t change their meaning:
Mozart was just five when he started composing. etc.

If 'only' is used as an adjective it means that there is only one of its kind:
This is the only photograph I have of my great grandfather.
Only you can understand me.
I think it is an advantage to be an only child.

'Only' can also be used as a conjunction it can be used instead of 'but'.
We both live in the same city only I live closer to the sea.
He's got a great sense of humour only he drinks too much.

Mostly 'just' is used to mean 'a short time ago'
He has just arrived.
I’ve just spoken to Harry about the proposals.
(in this case 'just' cannot be replaced by 'only'.

However in these sentences 'just' and 'only' are interchangeable.
It is only/just a few minutes away from the station.
It was only/just a silly comment. I didn’t mean to offend him.

‘Just’ also means 'exactly'
This is just (exactly) what I wanted to do.

Lesson by Tristan

Now decide if these sentences can take just – only – just or only

  • 1. He’s ___ walked out of the office.

  • 2. I was ___ joking.

  • 3. Haven’t we ___ walked through this street? We’re lost.

  • 4. ___ wait a minute and I’ll be right with you.

  • 5. The creator of this logo was ___ a young art student.

  • 6. The shoes were ___ the right size for me.

  • 7. They were away for ___ a week.

  • 8. What a coincidence! I’ve ___ mentioned you and you walk into the room.

  • 9. Peter was the ___ person prepared to help me.

  • 10. You can come with us ___ if you behave.