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Correct position of “only”

Which of the following sentences are correct?

  1. I have worked with only Mr. X.
  2. I have worked only with Mr. X.
  3. I have only worked with Mr. X.
  4. I have worked with Mr. X only.

Are all of the above correct? If so, how they differ in meaning?

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marked as duplicate by FumbleFingers, tchrist, Hellion, cornbread ninja 麵包忍者, Matt Эллен Jan 4 '13 at 12:11

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1  
This is not a duplicate. Worse, the "other" post has no satisfactory answer either. –  Kris Jan 4 '13 at 6:57
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@Kris I don't see how it is not a duplicate, and if the accepted answer there doesn't satisfy you, you are welcome to post your own. You might even get a badge for it. –  KitFox Jan 4 '13 at 15:04

1 Answer 1

up vote 0 down vote accepted

1) is clumsy. Put a name there. I have worked with only Erica.: Don't use that.

2) I have worked only with Mr. X: and nobody else. I didn't work with Kate!

3) I have only worked with Mr. X: and nothing else. I didn't sleep with him!

4) is clumsy, again. Example: I have worked with him only. Don't use that.

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354,000 hits in Google Books for "I have seen only..." suggests that your assessment of (1) as "clumsy" isn't universally shared. –  FumbleFingers Jan 3 '13 at 17:45
    
Well, many hits are "I have seen only one ..." which I definitely agree is proper. I guess I wasn't trying to be general, but rather concretely described the situation when using "work with someone." However, I agree that "I have worked with only one person" and "I have worked only with one person" and "I have worked with one person only" are all the same and equal, however "I have only worked with one person" is still different, or at least should be. –  RiMMER Jan 3 '13 at 17:51
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See here for how it actually works. There is a focus and there is a rule for where only (as well as other quantifiers_ can be placed. Generally there are several options, and personal habits and taste vary; but there's no difference in meaning. –  John Lawler Jan 3 '13 at 18:01
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I agree [subject] [verb] [noun] only is probably the least common position, but in such constructions the word only can and does validly appear in all four positions. Plenty of people have said "I love only you", and I'm sure they'd feel a bit crestfallen if the object of their affections came back with "That's a clumsy way of putting it!". A bit "poetic", maybe, but certainly not "clumsy". –  FumbleFingers Jan 3 '13 at 18:04
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@John: Ah. That would be the one where John only drinks beer because he hasn't yet figured out a way to have it delivered intravenously! Whereas I drink beer only because I know that hard liquor is drunk only by reprobates. –  FumbleFingers Jan 3 '13 at 18:09

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