Results 1 to 3 of 3
  1. #1
    GeneD is offline Senior Member
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Student or Learner
      • Native Language:
      • Russian
      • Home Country:
      • Belarus
      • Current Location:
      • Belarus
    Join Date
    Mar 2017
    Posts
    859

    just a little/only a little

    I'm sorry, I can't lend you any money. I just have a little left, and I still need to pay for this dinner.

    Doing exercises, I came across a sentence in which I can't quite understand the usage of "a little". "A little" usually conveys a positive idea, if I'm not mistaken, but in the example sentence the meaning of the phrase is negative. Is it because of the word "just"; some colloquial usage? I googled yesterday this type of sentences and found only some questions from non-native speakers about similar usage of "a little" but with the word "only" instead of "just". Is there any rule on this? And are there any more words like "only" and "just" (if they are interchangeable here) changing the connotation of "a little" phrase?
    If it's not too much trouble to you, could you please correct any errors I might have made in this post?

  2. #2
    emsr2d2's Avatar
    emsr2d2 is offline Moderator
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • English Teacher
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • UK
      • Current Location:
      • UK
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Posts
    61,324

    Re: just a little/only a little

    "Just a little" and "only a little" suggest a very small amount.
    Remember - if you don't use correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing, anything you write will be incorrect.

  3. #3
    PaulMatthews is offline Senior Member
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • English Teacher
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • Great Britain
      • Current Location:
      • Great Britain
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    Posts
    507

    Re: just a little/only a little

    Quote Originally Posted by GeneD View Post
    I'm sorry, I can't lend you any money. I just have a little left, and I still need to pay for this dinner.

    Doing exercises, I came across a sentence in which I can't quite understand the usage of "a little". "A little" usually conveys a positive idea, if I'm not mistaken, but in the example sentence the meaning of the phrase is negative. Is it because of the word "just"; some colloquial usage? I googled yesterday this type of sentences and found only some questions from non-native speakers about similar usage of "a little" but with the word "only" instead of "just". Is there any rule on this? And are there any more words like "only" and "just" (if they are interchangeable here) changing the connotation of "a little" phrase?
    The complex determinative "a little” is undoubtedly positive. The focusing modifiers "just" and "only" are not negatives but they can in certain constructions be semantically close to negatives. For example "I only have a little money" entails that I don’t have a lot of money. And "I just want a cheeseburger" entails that I don’t want anything other than a cheeseburger.

    The negative interpretation of "only" is especially clear when it is fronted in clauses as in, for example, "Only then did I realise that something was wrong", where it triggers subject-auxiliary inversion.

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •