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  1. #1
    sariputra is offline Junior Member
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    about a part of speech

    Dear Sir / Ma'am

    Only God can make a tree.

    With reference to the above sentence, English dictionaries and grammar books say that the word of only modifies the word of God which is a noun and that a part of speech of the word of only is not an adjective but an adverb.

    In this regard, I would appreciate it if you kindly explain the reason why the word of only is an adverb instead of an adjective though the word modifies a noun.

    Sincerely yours,
    Sariputra

  2. #2
    mykwyner is offline Key Member
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    Re: about a part of speech

    Unfortunately for you students, many English words (especially common ones) can be more than one part of speech.

    It was only puppy love. adverb

    He was an only child. adjective

  3. #3
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Re: about a part of speech


  4. #4
    usa0001112004 is offline Newbie
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    Re: about a part of speech

    Quote Originally Posted by mykwyner
    Unfortunately for you students, many English words (especially common ones) can be more than one part of speech.

    It was only puppy love. adverb

    He was an only child. adjective
    Placement of the word "only" in sentences has always been a problem for me!
    Look at these sentences and note the difference!
    1. Only God can make a tree (original sentence)
    2. God only can make a tree
    3. God can only make a tree
    4. God can make only a tree
    5. God can make a tree only

    Please explain the differences to me.

  5. #5
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Re: about a part of speech

    1. Only God can make a tree = no one else can
    2. God only can make a tree = the same
    3. God can only make a tree = he can't make anything else
    4. God can make only a tree = he isn't very able- that's all he can do
    5. God can make a tree only = the same

    Some might see them a little differently, but these are my interpretations.

  6. #6
    sariputra is offline Junior Member
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    Re: about a part of speech

    1. Only God can make a tree = no one else can
    2. God only can make a tree = the same
    3. God can only make a tree = he can't make anything else
    4. God can make only a tree = he isn't very able- that's all he can do
    5. God can make a tree only = the same

    *******************************************
    Dear Editor,

    With reference to the above your interpretations, could you kindly clarify a part of speech of the word'only' as well as the modified word or phrase respectively in the above five sentences ?

  7. #7
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Re: about a part of speech

    1 & 2- God = noun, so it's an adjective
    3- adverb modifying verb
    4 & 5- here, it is modifying the noun phrase, so adverbs again:

    http://www.usingenglish.com/glossary/adjective.html
    http://www.usingenglish.com/glossary/adverb.html

  8. #8
    usa0001112004 is offline Newbie
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    Re: about a part of speech

    This is how I will interpret these sentences:

    1. Only God can make a tree = no one else can
    2. God only can make a tree = he can't destroy it!
    3. God can only make a tree = the same
    4. God can make only a tree = he can't make more than one tree (his inability)
    5. God can make a tree only = he can't make anything else!

  9. #9
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    Re: about a part of speech

    It's suspect, Sariputra. Simply, "only" is not an adverb in that context. Adverbs modify verbs, not nouns. That's our evidence.

    Only God can make a tree.

    "Only God" functions as a noun phrase; "Only" modifies "God". It means, no one else but God, God alone. It's an adjective. Consider,

    God, exclusively, can make a tree.

    Just because "exclusively" ends in -ly doesn't make it an adverb. A word's function is derived from what it modifies in the sentence, and it modifies the noun "God". The commas are added to show that "exclusively" is not part of the verb phrase "make a tree." If we take away the commas, and even move the word, its function changes.

    Let's move it:

    God makes exclusively/only trees. (Adverb modifying the verb "make")
    God exclusively/only makes trees.

    In short, position is important. In "Only God can make a tree" the word "Only" sits next to a noun, making it an adjective. In "God only can make a tree" the word "only" sits next to a verbal, making it an adverb.

    Only, God can make a tree. (Odd)

  10. #10
    sariputra is offline Junior Member
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    Re: about a part of speech

    Dear Casiopea,

    Thank you very much for your kind explanations. I think you and Mr.(or Ms.) tdol gave a nearly conclusive answer to my question .

    And I also think you may well suspect my earlier assertion that English dictionaries and grammar books say that the word of only in such a sentence as "Only God can make a tree." is not an adjective but an adverb . In this regard I quote one of the grammar book as follow :

    Adverb directly before word(s) modified

    Only you could do a thing like that.
    [ from Practical English Usage 2nd Ed. (Michael Swan) ] Page 23

    Only Michael Swan makes me puzzled.

    In addition, I quote the definition of an adverb from the English Glossary of grammar terms from http://www.usingenglish.com (ESL) as follow :

    An adverb is a word that modifies the meaning of a Verb; an Adjective; another adverb; a Noun or Noun Phrase; Determiner; a Numeral; a Pronoun; or a Prepositional Phrase and can sometimes be used as a Complement of a Preposition.
    Even the English Glossary of grammar terms from ESL makes me embarrassed.

    I look forward to hearing from you in these regards.

    Sincerely yours,
    Sariputra
    Last edited by sariputra; 09-Jun-2005 at 06:56.

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