There was quite a disagreement the other day regarding the use of the word ‘ONLY’. The sentence was a little bit like this, ‘I received Chocolate cupcakes only for these 2 orders :
- Order No. 1
- Order No. 2
Therefore, please deliver to me all the orders made.”
Now, what does that actually mean? I’d hate to list out all the possibilities, whether right or wrong. My English has gotten rusty this past few years (Oh! My English!!!), that I succumbed to confusion. Ibarat parang yang sudah tumpul sebab tak diasah. No teacher to help correct my grammar. No time for English classes. Too busy watching my dear Man Utd to mind my English. BM pun tidak seberapa, actually. 😀
So, I googled and found this very simple explanation from WikiHow website (and I am quoting it verbatim):
“It’s important to understand that the word “only” describes or modifies the word or clause right after it. This means that “only” should be placed right before the word or phrase you’re singling out to mean “alone“, “solely” or “no other“.
For example, take the phrases “the only cookie“, or “I only looked at him.” In these two examples, it’s clear what word “only” modifies. In the first example, it’s the word “cookie“. “Only” emphasizes that there is just one cookie. In the second example, “only” modifies the verb “looked“, emphasizing that the single action that took place was “looking.”
Learn by example. Here’s one sentence in which “only” can be used in several places, and every place means something different!
She kissed him on the lips.
- If you write “Only she kissed him on the lips“, then that means that she, and no one else, kissed the guy in question.
- If you write “She only kissed him on the lips“, then “kissing” was the sole action, and nothing else of a similar nature—such as “applying chap stick“—occurred.
- If you write “She kissed only him on the lips“, then then the reader/listener would know that he was special to her for whatever reason, and that he was the one person she kissed.
- If you write “She kissed him only on the lips“, then she has good aim, and so her kiss didn’t land under, over, or to the side of his mouth.
- If you write “She kissed him on only the lips.”, then no other part of his body received her kiss. “She kissed him on the lips only” means exactly the same thing.
Step 3 :
Get into the habit of using “only” just before the word you want to single out. This matters because it can change the meaning of the sentence unless the context makes it clear to the listener or reader. This is less ambiguous in informal conversation since most people will likely know what you really mean, but getting it correct might save misunderstandings.
Step 4 :
Listen for the use of “only” by others. Now that you’re an expert, you’re doomed to endure everyone else’s misuse of the word, and you’ll be stuck trying to figure out what they really meant! If it isn’t clear, seek clarification—especially when a decision or result rests on your understanding their precise meaning.
In the end, we found out that what the person meant was, she received everything as ordered, except for that 2 orders where she received only cupcakes and not the rest of the flavours. 😉
– How To Use ‘Only’