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    #1

    only

    Are these sentences ambiguous:

    1-I didn't open only the first window.
    2-I didn't open the first window only.

    Meaning a: I opened other windows as well.
    Meaning b: The first window was the only one I didn't open.

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    #2

    Re: only

    Hello Navi

    Sentence #1 could be ambiguous especially in spoken English, where context and intonation would give it meaning B.

    But I find it very difficult to read the second meaning into sentence #2.

    MrP

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    #3

    Re: only

    Thanks a lot Mr. Pedantic,

    I try to 'sing' it in such a way that would give it the second meaning, but I lose myself in the song!
    Probably if I wrote it like this.
    I didn't open the first window. Only.
    One wouldn't write that, I guess, but could one say (sing) it?

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    #4

    Re: only

    You can sing anything into meaning.


    • Join Date: Mar 2006
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    #5

    Re: only

    Quote Originally Posted by navi tasan
    Are these sentences ambiguous:

    1-I didn't open only the first window.
    2-I didn't open the first window only.

    Meaning a: I opened other windows as well.
    Meaning b: The first window was the only one I didn't open.
    They are not ambiguous if you are interpreting the sense strictly, but native speakers are clumsy about the rules of placement for the word "only".

    1) strictly means a: because "only" modifies "the first window". 2) does not mean b: - it means the same as 1). To indicate meaning b:, you would have to say "I only didn't open the first window."

    You would be better to avoid the potential ambiguities in practice by rephrasing. Your meaning b: is much clearer when written in full.

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