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    #1

    'if only' and 'only if'

    Hi

    What's the difference between 'if only' and 'only if' ?

    Thanks

  1. Nightmare85's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: 'if only' and 'only if'

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

    Hi,
    I think "only if" is a condition and "if only" is a wish.

    1) Conditions/Orders:
    I will give you the money only if you do your work properly.
    Only if you tell me his name, I will let you go.

    2) Wishes
    If only I had the chance to work...

    (Said by an unemployed who finally wants to work.)
    If only she were here, I would be so happy.
    (The wish that a certain person is near you.)

    P.S: It's an interesting question and I hope I am right

    Cheers!

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    #3

    Exclamation Re: 'if only' and 'only if'

    Quote Originally Posted by Nightmare85 View Post
    **Neither a teacher nor a native speaker.**

    Hi,
    I think "only if" is a condition and "if only" is a wish.

    1) Conditions/Orders:
    I will give you the money only if you do your work properly.
    Only if you tell me his name, I will let you go.

    2) Wishes
    If only I had the chance to work...

    (Said by an unemployed who finally wants to work.)
    If only she were here, I would be so happy.
    (The wish that a certain person is near you.)

    P.S: It's an interesting question and I hope I am right

    Cheers!
    You are perfectly right. If is basically a conjunction and is used to introduce a conditional clause but when followed by only, it introduces an expressions of desire/wish, as:
    If only I had known you were coming I would have met you at the airport.
    If only there was some way she could lose that excess weight.

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    #4

    Re: 'if only' and 'only if'

    One more thing I want to add. Consider this sentences:
    1. I agreed to visit his home if only for the food.
    2. Notwithstanding, it seems, if only for a moment, like it's not working for me and my life at least.

    In these sentences, "if" is used as an intensifier only.

  2. BobK's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: 'if only' and 'only if'

    Quote Originally Posted by Adam Cruge View Post
    One more thing I want to add. Consider this sentences:
    1. I agreed to visit his home if only for the food.
    2. Notwithstanding, it seems, if only for a moment, like it's not working for me and my life at least.

    In these sentences, "if" is used as an intensifier only.
    Not really. In those sentences, 'if only' means 'but only'. 'Only' doesn't need intensification, and can't be intensified. If something is the only one it's sole, unique - it can't be more or less unique.

    b

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    #6

    Re: 'if only' and 'only if'

    But what about this sentence:
    But as I sit, I know I must try to tell it, if for no other reason than to finally put this all behind me.

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    #7

    Re: 'if only' and 'only if'

    'Hard cases make bad law', as they say! I don't think it's sensible to talk about the function of "if" in the idiomatic forms "if only because" and "if for no other reason".

    b

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    #8

    Re: 'if only' and 'only if'

    Quote Originally Posted by BobK View Post
    'Hard cases make bad law', as they say! I don't think it's sensible to talk about the function of "if" in the idiomatic forms "if only because" and "if for no other reason".

    b
    Didn't get you. Why not?

  4. BobK's Avatar
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    #9

    Re: 'if only' and 'only if'

    Quote Originally Posted by Adam Cruge View Post
    Didn't get you. Why not?
    Because, in the words of Grévisse, 'Les mots n'existent pas'. Individual words don't have a single, monolithic, canonical 'meaning', that you can hold up with metaphorical tweezers and examine with a metaphorical microscope. Individual words only have a function as part of the meaning of an utterance, and that only has a meaning in its context.

    I really don't have time to take this discussion any further. I have a deadline to meet...

    b

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