Answer to English Grammar Question 6856

How does 'once' change when it is with 'just' or 'only'?

From member: George,Romania in Romania

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Hi George. Thanks for your question.

As you know ‘once‘ means an action that is performed one time only. So if we say ‘Count the chickens once‘ we are saying ‘count the chickens one time only and no more than that’. As it stands, we do not need to add anything to that sentence to make the meaning clear.

However, your question shows that there are two (at least) common modifiers that we use with ‘once‘ - ‘just‘ and ‘only‘. Both of these are used to emphasize the fact that the action is required one time and one time only or that it happened one time only.

For example:

Notice that the placement of ‘just‘ or ‘only‘ does not have to be immediately before ‘once‘ but is often placed directly after the subject pronoun.

In terms of how ‘just’ and ‘only’ effect the meaning I’d say that they are interchangeable and both can be used to emphasize ‘once‘ in the same way.

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