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    • Join Date: Mar 2008
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    #1

    a question about "only"

    Thank you for your replies in advance.

    My question is:

    Suppose the circumstances:

    Some people thought it needed more than three people to push over a wall, but then three people pushed over the wall.

    I think the fact proves that it is easy to push over the wall. It doesn't need more than three people.

    Can I say "only three people pushed over the wall" to express the meaning above?

    I feel the sentence is wrong, because the sentence implies "no other people participated the action of the pushing over the wall".

    But what is the right expression?


    Thanks a lot.

  1. emsr2d2's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: a question about "only"

    Quote Originally Posted by eagleflych View Post
    Thank you for your replies in advance.

    My question is:

    Suppose the circumstances:

    Some people thought it needed more than three people to push over a wall, but then three people pushed over the wall.

    I think the fact proves that it is easy to push over the wall. It doesn't need more than three people.

    Can I say "only three people pushed over the wall" to express the meaning above?

    I feel the sentence is wrong, because the sentence implies "no other people participated the action of the pushing over the wall".

    But what is the right expression?


    Thanks a lot.
    I'm confused. How many people pushed the wall over? Your own post states "but then three people pushed over the wall". So it is appears to be clear that only three people actually physically participated in the action of pushing over the wall.

    So technically there's nothing wrong with you saying "only three people pushed over the wall".

    However, if you want to be more clear, you could say:

    "Some people thought it needed more than three people to push over a wall, but they were proved wrong when just three people pushed over the wall!"

  2. Nightmare85's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: a question about "only"

    **Neither a teacher nor a native speaker.**

    I agree that just sounds better than only.
    (In this case.)
    Only sounds a bit limited.
    There are only five tickets available.

    A have one piece of advice for you:
    Some teachers suggest not to use people if you want to count them.

    I hope it's okay if I hijack emsr2d2's sentence
    "Some people thought it needed more than three persons to push over a wall, but they were proved wrong when just three persons pushed over the wall!"

    Here it's fully okay to use people:
    There are many people in our town.
    Some people dislike such rules.

    All young people want to have cars.

    Altough it's okay to say, "Many people", I would suggest to use persons in combination with numbers, like three persons.

    Cheers!

  3. emsr2d2's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: a question about "only"

    I would have to disagree with the post above regarding the choice between persons/people.

    Whilst the police and many legal authorities use "persons", the general use among the majority of the population would be people, regardless of whether it is preceded by a number or not.

    If you said "It took three persons to push over the wall", either in writing or orally, I would probaly correct it to "people".

  4. Nightmare85's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: a question about "only"

    Okay, I will do a research tomorrow.
    Now I can already say that Google gives these results:
    "Between two persons" -> 22.900.000 results.
    "Between two people" -> 40.100.000 results.

    However, this does not necessarily mean it's correct.
    (So, let's wait until tomorrow )

    Well, good night

    P.S. Is there an example where you would use "persons" instead of "people"?

    Cheers!

  5. emsr2d2's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: a question about "only"

    Quote Originally Posted by Nightmare85 View Post
    Okay, I will do a research tomorrow.
    Now I can already say that Google gives these results:
    "Between two persons" -> 22.900.000 results.
    "Between two people" -> 40.100.000 results.

    However, this does not necessarily mean it's correct.
    (So, let's wait until tomorrow )

    Well, good night

    P.S. Is there an example where you would use "persons" instead of "people"?

    Cheers!
    Well, with all due respect, I'm not talking about Google. I'm talking about the fact that I'm a native English speaker who grew up in the UK and have been listening to English my entire life.

    I can assure you that I can say that I have probably heard/used "persons" less than 1% of the time, as opposed to "people".

    Much as I like Google for finding out specific facts about something you are researching, when it comes to something like language, there's nothing better than being able to ask native speakers about common usage.

    PS - As I mentioned in my first post, "persons" is used in legal terminology "5 persons have been arrested in relation to this crime", "Police have detained 4 persons on suspicion of terrorist activity". It's also sometimes used in signs giving instruction, for example in a lift "Maximum 8 persons".

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    #7

    Re: a question about "only"

    Quote Originally Posted by eagleflych View Post

    Some people thought it needed more than three people to push over a wall, but then three people pushed over the wall.

    I think the fact proves that it is easy to push over the wall. It doesn't need more than three people.

    Can I say "only three people pushed over the wall" to express the meaning above? no
    It took (only)(just) three people to push the wall over. (which is what I think you mean)

    Thanks a lot.
    2006

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