just / only

The word “just” has several possible definitions:

1) Recently

  • Be careful – I just washed the floor, and it’s still wet. or ( I washed the floor a few minutes ago)
  • He just finished a big project. or ( he finished the project very recently)

    2) Only

  • I have just one brother. or ( I have only one brother)
  • I thought you were hungry, but you ate just half of your sandwich. or ( you ate only half of your sandwich, and no more)

    The word only can be replaced with “just” in most situations:

  • Only two students came to class on the day before Christmas.
  • My kids only use the internet for schoolwork, not for playing games. or My kids just use the internet for schoolwork, not for playing games.

    In the expression “If only…” you can use “just” if you change the structure a little bit:

  • If only I had studied harder. I would’ve passed the test. or If I had just studied harder, I would’ve passed the test.

    “Only” and “just” are interchangeable with definition 2 of “just,” but not with definition 1.

  • Definition 2 – Same meaning We have just one daughter. or We have only one daughter.
  • Definition 1 – Different meanings

    I just washed the flo or (a few minutes ago)

    I only washed the flo or (and I didn’t wash the table or anything else) Whether “just” means “recently” or “only” depends on the context:

  • “Did you clean the whole house?”

    “No, I just washed the floor.” or ( I only washed the floor).

  • “Why is the floor wet?”

    “Because I just washed it.” or ( I recently washed it. In this case,you can’t use “only”)

    When you use “just” with a verb, the word order matters:

  • I just ate two pieces of pizza. or ( I recently ate two pieces of pizza)
  • I ate just two pieces of pizza. or ( I ate only two pieces, not 3 or 4 or 5)
  • I just bought a new book. or ( I recently bought a new book)
  • I bought just one new book. or ( I bought only one new book, not two or more)