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  1. emsr2d2's Avatar
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    #1

    The importance of word order

    The importance of word order - one single sentence with 8 different meanings depending on where the word "only" is placed

    1.ONLY I hit him in the eye yesterday. (No one else did.)
    2.I ONLY hit him in the eye yesterday. (Did not slap him.)
    3.I hit ONLY him in the eye yesterday. (I did not hit others.)
    4.I hit him ONLY in the eye yesterday. (I did not hit outside the eye.)
    5.I hit him in ONLY the eye yesterday. (Not other organs.)
    6.I hit him in the ONLY eye yesterday. (He doesn't have another eye..)
    7.I hit him in the eye ONLY yesterday. (Not today.)
    8.I hit him in the eye yesterday ONLY. (Did not wait for today.)

    (Attributed to Ernest Brennecke of Columbia University)

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    #2

    Re: The importance of word order

    NOT A TEACHER


    (1) Thank you for sharing Professor Brennecke's list with us.

    (2) In school, we are taught to say/write: "I have only three friends."

    (a) But in the real world, it seems that most native speakers find "I only have three friends"

    much more natural.

  2. CarloSsS's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: The importance of word order

    Not a teacher
    I guess that sometimes the position of "only" in a sentence puts more emphasis on a certain fact that the sentence says, while other times it doesn't make any difference at all. To me the sentence I only have three friends and the sentence I have only three friends mean pretty much the same, except maybe the latter puts more emphasis on the fact that the number of friends that you have is three. I can't think of any fact in the first sentence that would be more emphasized by the position of "only". I can't think of anything that you could contrast with the fact that you only "have" three friends?
    While in the sentence I touched hit him you emphasize that you touched him, not hit or anything more severe, but if you say I hit only him means that it was him who was hit and not anybody else.

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    #4

    Re: The importance of word order

    My daughter watches "The Wizards of Waverly Place," a Disney series about kids growing up with magic powers.

    The theme song tells us that "Everything is not what it seems."

    I have pointed out to her the error there. They don't really mean that. That would mean that there was nothing that actually was as it appeared.

    What they mean is "Not everything is what it seems."

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