In English Conversations, “Just” vs. “Only”

Learn How To Use “Just” and “Only” Like A Native English Speaker!

When you get confused about the difference between “just” and “only,” think like a native English speaker!

Since Aria, our daughter, has begun speaking a lot more, my wife and I have had more conversations about language learning methods at home.

During dinner with my wife, Aria, and her parents, Aria asked me what I was drinking.

We discussed translating that sentence into Japanese after I told her, “Just water.”.

It was my wife’s mother – who speaks quite a bit of English – who asked if “only” could replace “just”.

She could use this, but it could mean different things to different people.

The words “just” and “only” can sometimes have the same meaning, which is why she asked if either could be used.

When you have a limited amount of something, for example:

“I only have 10 minutes to finish my work.”

“I only have 10 minutes to complete my task.”

When I told Aria I was “just” drinking water, I meant that it was nothing special.

I wasn’t drinking anything more interesting like juice, wine, or anything else.

Water was all I needed.

In this situation, you can use “only,” but “just” is much more common because of its clear meaning.

When someone asks if you would like something to drink at a friend’s house, a bar or a restaurant, you can reply, “(Just) water.”

Since you don’t want them to go to any trouble for you, you don’t need anything fancy or special…

It could also be that you don’t want to drink any alcohol.

It’s a polite, native response you’re giving them.

When you say, “Only water…,” it could mean that you can’t or won’t drink anything else, like coffee or alcohol, for some medical or religious reason.

Do you see how natives prefer “just” here?

If you’re at a restaurant and your server asks if you’d like anything to drink with your order, but you prefer water, you’d reply:

“I’d just like some water.”

Developing fluency in our native language is no secret.

Just a few things:

We will learn everything in our native language (without translations), with visual examples of simple explanations, and with lots of practice.

Since Aria learns how to speak from me in The Fluency Course, she can now use even tricky words like “just” and “only” correctly and without thinking.

Didn’t it feel better to learn something as a family around the dinner table instead of reading a textbook or memorizing flash cards? 🙂


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