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I was talking to my client. I wanted to convey that "we need the minified type of files and the concatenated type of files; nothing other than that". I quickly wrote this:

we just need minified and concatenated files.

Thinking on it later, I felt like perhaps "we need just minified and concatenated files", or perhaps "we need minified and concatenated files only", would have been accurate.

I want to know:

  1. Is the usage of just appropriate in such a situation? Or should I use only?
  2. How does the placement of just modify the sense of the sentence?
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Hmmm, minified?!? –  Jim Jul 13 '12 at 6:07
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"We just need" is definitely the preferred choice. "We need just" isn't how a native speaker would likely phrase it in conversation nor is "we need <...> only." If they were to use only it'd be as, "We only need ..." –  Jim Jul 13 '12 at 6:10
    
How the position of the adverb only can slightly change the meaning (and some rules of thumbs regarding the position of adverbs) –  Em1 Jul 13 '12 at 7:15
    
@Jim that's software specific term. JavaScript files are compressed by removing redundant element, so that it take lesser bandwidth than the original (and more visually pleasing) version. Compression is not used here because, in software, compression means encoding into a shorter form based on various algorithm. Hope it makes sense. You may replace minified and concatenated with mangoes and apples for the sake of this question. –  Nishant Jul 13 '12 at 7:22
    
@Nishant- Thanks. I have been writing embedded software for over 30 years and have never heard that term before. Maybe because it's mostly helpful for trying to optimize the parsing of interpreted languages. –  Jim Jul 13 '12 at 7:35
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closed as general reference by Cameron, kiamlaluno, Matt Эллен, Mahnax, cornbread ninja 麵包忍者 Aug 26 '12 at 4:14

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1 Answer

up vote 3 down vote accepted

In the context of a larger discussion where most requirements are already understood, all of the possibilities you mention ‒ ie,

• We just need minified and concatenated files
• We need just minified and concatenated files
• We need minified and concatenated files only

‒ probably will be understood to mean the same thing:

• Of the proffered file characteristics, we need minified and concatenated and don't need any others, and we still need other capabilities that were previously and separately stated.

However, if a larger context hasn't been given, those three forms can have slightly different interpretations, as follows:

• We just need the files that have been minified and concatenated and we don't need any other files.
• We need just the characteristics or capabilities of minifying and concatenating files, without excluding other previous and separate capabilities.
• We need capabilities of minifying and concatenating files, only; we don't need any other features or capabilities.

That is, the first form may be thought to address necessary files, the second to address required file characteristics or capabilities, and the third to exclude not-mentioned features or capabilities. Note: The reasonable thing to do is use a few more words or sentences to make your meaning clear.

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'just need' vs 'need just' have a slight semantic difference - the former is "other prerequisites have been met, these are the only remaining", the latter is "these are all the (simple) prerequisites." "only" may seem stronger in that trying to provide more would be counter-productive, say, a list of ingredients is final and you should not add anything to it. –  SF. Jul 13 '12 at 7:16
    
@SF: That may be true, but, in everyday conversation, I'd bet many hearers don't pay much attention to that subtle distinction. In a written document, though, it's not a bad idea to consider such nuances carefully. –  J.R. Jul 13 '12 at 9:32
    
I'm not too keen on putting 'only' at the end of a full sentence. OK at the end of a short notice e.g. 'Staff Only'. –  Barry Brown Jul 13 '12 at 10:35
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