The disease is only contagious in the early stages

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vil

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Dear teachers,

I know that when used “only” as an adverb, only should be placed with care to avoid ambiguity. Generally this means having only adjoin the word or words that it limits. Variation in the placement of only can change the meaning of the sentence, as the following examples show: Dictators respect only force; they are not moved by words. Dictators only respect force; they do not worship it.

Would you be kind enough explain to me the proper meaning of the word “only” at the following sentence:

“The disease is only contagious in the early stages”.

only = 1. to the exclusion of anyone or anything else: alone, but, entirely, exclusively, solely.

2. nothing more than: just, merely.

The sentence is without context because it is only an example in addition to a brief definition of the word “stage” namely “a stage is a part of a process”.

Thank you in advance for your efforts.

Regards.

V.
 

cajka

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Firstly, I am not a teacher.
However, I am pretty sure about the use of only in the subjected sentence, as I understand it from the medical point of view. It means that the disease is contagious (i.e. transmissible, possesing capacity of infecting somebody) in early stages only.
The word only refers to the early stages, not to the word contagious.
The collocation "only contagious" has no sense, as there is nothing more (or less) than contagious. The disease can be contagious or not, nothing else.
 

vil

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Sep 13, 2007
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Hi cajka,

Thank you for your categorical reply. Now I haven’t got the slightest trace of uncertainty. Your detail explanation put an end to all doubt. Thank you again for your kindness.

Regards.

V.
 
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