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    • Join Date: Jun 2005
    • Posts: 7
    #1

    must only

    When talking about necessities does the meaning of "must only" depend on the context?

    Ex. 1a: "The device must only be switched off in case of an emergency."
    --> You must not switch the device off in any other case. (?)
    Here: must only = may only (?)

    Ex. 2a: "The device must only be switched off manually if the automatic shutdown function is disabled."
    --> You only need to switch the device off manually if the automatic shutdown function is disabled. (?)
    Here: must only = only need/have to (?)

    Would the repositioning of "only" change anything?

    Ex. 1b: "The device must be switched off only in case of an emergency.
    Here: must only = only need/have to (?)

    Ex. 2b: "The device must be switched off manually only if the automatic shutdown function is disabled."
    Here: must only = only need/have to (?)

    So, can "must ... only" mean "may ... only" in one context and "need/have to ... only" in another?
    If so, how do you know if the context itself is ambiguous?

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    • Join Date: Nov 2002
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    #2

    Re: must only

    I don't read 2a the same way. As long as the automatic function hasn't been disabled, you are not to switch it off manually. I see it as similar to the first. Moving 'only' just shifts the focus- it doesn't affect the prohibition. I don't see any ambiguity here as I see the second as a warning not to mess things up, not as the removal of the need to do something. I think that if you tried to shut it down manually, you might cause a problem.

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