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Marking a German student's test I have encountered the following problem:

The relationship between the two adolescents is one-sided. Just the boy really feels something, the girl hates him.

Can just be used here? My gut feeling says it should be only, although both words can mean "merely" and do in this case.

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Rather than the words, it is sentence that needs a little fixing. "It is just that the boy who really feels...". –  Kris Oct 23 '12 at 10:50
    
Can you tell us what was the intended meaning of the sentence? –  Kris Oct 23 '12 at 10:52
1  
@Kris your version makes even less sense. –  Matt Эллен Oct 23 '12 at 10:54
    
@Kris "It's just that the boy who really feels something" doesn't make any sense. At all. –  Matt Эллен Oct 23 '12 at 11:00
    
Oh right: "It's just that it's the boy who really feels something" -- sure, oversight. –  Kris Oct 23 '12 at 11:22

2 Answers 2

The sentence "Just the boy really feels something, the girl hates him." has two problems.

The first, as Barrie says, is the comma splice between two independent clauses.

The second is the contradiction. Both the girl and the boy feel something. Presumably, however, the boy loves the girl but the girl hates the boy. Hate is a feeling.

Neither only nor just is appropriate here.

The relationship between the two adolescents is {unbalanced / unequal / antagonistic / incongruous / inconsonant}. The boy loves the girl, but she hates him.

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+1. Good point. –  Barrie England Oct 23 '12 at 11:20

I don’t think the meaning intended here is ‘merely’. The writer seems to mean that the boy felt something and the girl didn’t. In that case, only, rather than just, makes the meaning clearer. However, a comma can’t join the two clauses. It needs replacing with and or the two clauses should be rewritten as two sentences: Only the boy feels anything. The girl hates him.

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