The Difference Between “Just” And “Only” In English Conversations
Learn To Use “Just” and “Only” Like A Native English Speaker!
Do you ever get confused about the difference between “just” and “only”? The solution to language problems like this is to think like a native English speaker!
My wife and I have always had lots of conversations about language learning at home, but we have even more now that Aria, our daughter, is speaking a lot more.
Recently, when my wife, Aria, my wife’s parents and I were all having dinner, Aria asked me what I was drinking.
When I told her, “Just water,” a discussion began about translating that sentence into Japanese.
My wife’s mother – who also knows quite a bit of English – asked if “only” could replace “just” in this case.
I explained that she could use this, but that it could mean different things to different people.
“Just” and “only” can sometimes have the same meaning, which is why she asked if either word could be used.
An example is when you want so say you have a small or limited amount of something:
“I just have 10 minutes to do my work.”
“I only have 10 minutes to do my work.”
But when I told Aria I was “just” having water, I meant that the drink was nothing special or interesting.
I wasn’t drinking something more interesting like juice, wine or whatever.
I was “just” having water.
Now, you can use “only” in this situation, but “just” is much more common because the meaning is clear to a native speaker.
If you go to a friend’s house, a bar or a restaurant, and someone asks you if you’d like something to drink, you can reply by saying “(Just) water is fine.”
And this would mean that you don’t need anything special or fancy because you don’t want them to go through any trouble for you…
Or because you don’t want to drink any alcohol.
You’re giving them a polite, native response.
Saying “Only water…” in this situation could have that same meaning, but it could also mean that you can’t or won’t drink anything other than water, like you can only drink water, and not coffee or alcohol, for some medical or religious reason.
See way natives prefer “just” here?
So, if you’re at a restaurant and your server asks if you’d like anything to drink with your order, but you don’t want anything other than water, you’d say:
“Just water, please.”
It’s no secret how we all become able to speak our native language fluently.
Learn everything in our native language (this means without translations) with visual examples of simple explanations, and with lots of review.
The way I help thousands of people all over the world in The Fluency Course is exactly how Aria learns to speak at home. And this is why she can now use even tricky things like “just” and “only” correctly and without thinking about them.
Didn’t it feel better to learn something like a family around the dinner table than by trying to read a textbook or memorize some flashcards? 🙂
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