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So, in the US, we make ample use of the word "just" in a context such as: "I just finished my homework." (I finished my homework very recently -- perhaps immediately preceding this statement) or "He had just gotten his driver's license when his father's car was stolen." (pointing out that there was very little [if any] time between the two events) I only recently learned that this is, apparently, an Americanism. Is there a better, more universally accepted way of expressing this? I feel that "recently" is not quite "recent" enough.

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It's an Americanism? Why do you think this? I just went to the Cambridge Dictionaries Online website (to try to verify your statement) and look what I saw there: "We have just added an English–Spanish/Spanish–English bilingual dictionary to Cambridge Dictionaries Online!" –  Peter Shor Nov 7 '11 at 21:32
    
I think "just" is heavily overused. Maybe I'm sensitive to it because I hear "just two?" at restaurants all the time. –  Robert S. Nov 7 '11 at 21:32
    
@Robert: for me "just one" -all- the time. –  Mitch Nov 7 '11 at 21:41
    
"Just one" is somewhat understandable, albeit no less tacky. I have to wonder, at what number do they drop the "just?" –  Robert S. Nov 7 '11 at 22:24
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2 Answers

For the past perfect tense you have a few options:

  • scarcely: "They had scarcely made this resolve when a feeble cry arose from a dark object that floated rapidly by." -- Edgar Allan Poe, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym.

  • barely: "We had barely completed this work when the Commander, the Captain, Marvin, Borup, and Esquimos came in." -- Matthew A. Henson, Matthew A. Henson's Historic Arctic Journey.

  • hardly: "...but he had hardly reached home when Frank, who had been sent after him, delivered this note..." -- James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson.

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The only Americanism I see in the sentences you cite is the use of just with the Past Simple. In British English, just is usually used with the Present Perfect tense, which is considered the correct thing to do according to grammar books.

As for another word to replace just, I can't think of one, just describes exactly what you want to express.

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+1, but not so much 'the correct thing to do according to grammar books', as the thing that is done by British English speakers. (And most British linguists don't recognize a present perfect tense.) –  Barrie England Nov 7 '11 at 21:39
    
Aren't British English speakers influenced by the American use of the language, esp with words used so often? I have the feeling they are... It's the only reason I've cited the grammar books. –  Irene Nov 7 '11 at 21:45
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just could be replaced with recently, or in some cases newly as in The just-hatched chicks crowded the nest and made an awful lot of noise -> The newly-hatched chicks crowded the nest... ...Not sure you can do this in all situations, but probably in many. –  FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Nov 7 '11 at 21:46
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@Irene: Google Ngrams confirms that just is usually used with the present perfect in the U.K. (at least until just recently). This used to be the case in the U.S. as well, but that started changing around 1920. Strangely, recently doesn't follow the same rule. –  Peter Shor Nov 7 '11 at 21:53
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British: "I have just finished." American: "I just finished." (Americans also say "I have just finished", but usually only when there is another reason to use that tense, and not just because they used just.) –  Peter Shor Nov 7 '11 at 21:56
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