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Monday, July 28, 2008

Criminal Sentence 64: If "Only"

When we speak, we say things like "I only have one car" and "It'll only hurt for a minute." We use this "only" to emphasize. Only one car. Pain for only one minute. However, the "only"s in these sentences are in the wrong places. Although it doesn't seem natural, we should say, "I have only one car" and "It'll hurt for only a minute." I'm acutely aware of these "only"s but I still find myself saying these kinds of sentences. So I understand that when we speak we will misuse "only." When we write, though, we should be more careful.

Paraphrased from today's paper:

"This offer is only good today."

So where should the "only" go?

2 comments:

Doug & Amanda said...

"The offer is good today only."

?

The Sentence Sleuth said...

I would say that sounds OK, though I might prefer the "only" to be before "today":
The offer is good only today.