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I can only intuitively grasp the meaning and usage of "if only as".

It seems related to "if only" at this other question: What does "if only" mean? However I don't feel they're quite the same.

Hence I would like to know the meaning of "if only as", and whether an how it's related to "if only".

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possible duplicate of What does "if only" mean? – user1579 Jun 21 '11 at 11:48

Whichever conjunction comes after if only doesn't really matter. Since you haven't provided a specific example sentence, I can only give you a general answer. It (hypothetically) stands for (even) if [that is so] only as... or, more informally, (even) though [that is so] only as... I believe the latter sense is most prevalent, although though only as would be more precise in that case. A few example sentences:

I don't know whether he is infatuated with Socrates, but Crito will help the great thinker, if only as a fellow philosopher.

Crito will help Socrates, (even) if he does so only in his capacity of a fellow philosopher.

The Roman Empire remained after the fall of Romulus Augustulus, if only as cultural entity.

It is a matter of controversy whether the Empire continued as a political entity after the fall of the last Roman Empire, i.e. there was some sort of empire under the Goths, and the Byzantine Empire could be said to have inherited its essence; but, no matter what, we say it was still there, even if it remained only as a cultural entity.

Nero and Agrippina get along quite well, if only as partners in crime.

They get along well, even though they only get along as partners in crime, not in other capacities, such as mother and son.

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Can you give an example, or some context? I think you mean something like:

My car is useful, if only as a place to sleep when it breaks down before I get home.

If so, then it means that you are saying that something does not fulfill its stated purpose or some standard, but can be considered as fulfilling some other purpose/standard. The "only" makes the second purpose/standard appear to be the lesser or less desirable. It is often used ironically, as in my example above.

I hope this helps, even if only as a way to get the discussion started.

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I had a car like that once. Actually more than once. – MT_Head Jun 21 '11 at 3:35
Your example is fine as an example. – blizpasta Jun 21 '11 at 4:42

I have a feeling, not quite sure, but I believe, that if only as is actually "if only" used in a sentence just before the word "as". Take @JeffSahol's example (Thank-you Jeff!)

My car is useful, if only as a place to sleep when it breaks down before I get home.

The reason I believe that "if only as" is really "If only" used before "as", is because if you substitute another phrase for "if only" in @JeffSahol's example, the "as" remains:

My car is useful, not just as a place to sleep when it breaks down before I get home.

So, in the end, it really basically means "if only" Hope that helped.

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