I am from Bangalore and people here tend use the word only to emphasise something in a sentence. For example:

We are getting that only printed.

What is the proper way to put it?

  • 2
    Yes.That is a general tendency.It is used to emphasize the task.For e.g., If you ask a person about completion of a task abc, he will reply "Yes, I am doing that only." :) Its a bit funny but has become a habit mostly. The only way to avoid use of 'only' is to specify the work being done.In your case, it might be, 'We are getting the sheet xyz printed'.
    – Haze
    Commented Mar 15, 2013 at 10:34
  • 3
    I assume you mean 'limit' when you say 'emphasis[e]'. For emphasis, bolding and/or italicisation would be used in print (We are getting that printed), whilst in spoken English, an emphatic tone (and perhaps an emphatic gesture) would be used. To limit, in conversation the word just is more idiomatic in the obvious position: 'We are getting just that printed.' However, it would be more normal to change the position of the limiting modifier, admittedly to a less logical position in the sentence: 'We are only / just getting that printed.' Commented Mar 15, 2013 at 10:46
  • 1
    I've just told you how most people in England would do it. To attempt to avoid the possible ambiguity, the that would be stressed: 'We are only getting that printed.' Commented Mar 15, 2013 at 10:49
  • 1
    The only way to avoid ambiguity is to say "We are getting only that printed" and to emphasize "that". When it's written, where "only" is placed can eliminate or create ambiguity. All other suggestions here so far are ambiguous to careful writers and readers. Disregard what typical native speakers think is normal in this case. In writing, place "only" before the word or phrase that it modifies. When speaking, however, it's fine to say it after, viz., "We are getting that only printed" if you heavily stress "only" & keep the pause after "that" very short.
    – user21497
    Commented Mar 15, 2013 at 11:00
  • 6
    No, 'That's the only thing we're having printed' avoids ambiguity and sounds like normal English. Commented Mar 15, 2013 at 15:51

9 Answers 9


I am an American living in India and have observed the Indian English use of "only" for purposes of emphasis.

I've collected a few examples of this usage. The ones below require context because they could also mean "only" in the sense of exclusion, as an American or an Englishman would use the term. However, they were all used for emphasis.

"It's a new movie only"

"It's on that branch only"

"They are Punjabi only"

"There was a tree only over there"

"That's his term only"

The following examples also use "only" for emphasis, and contextually they can't be taken any other way.

"It's an iPhone only."

"I have no lighter only."

"I'm going to eat now only."

"Immediately on arrival only he paid me."

"That is still a part of Bombay only."

"I'll get it washed tomorrow only."

"I can not understand it only"

answers phone "I'm in my room only"

"I need AA batteries"...."we will get that in town only."

If I am to understand your question correctly, you want to know how this emphasis would be given in the same situation by a Western native speaker of English. (For many Indians, "proper" here is equivalent to "English as used in the West.") It need not be though, Indian English is a great native language, it has its own sense of style.

I don't have a clean easy way of adding the same emphasis, this is a unique use of English. But I think that if the sentence was a response to

"Are you printing up my documents now?

and the Indian English speaker responds with "We are getting that only printed" (implying that it is indeed being done, not implying that the customer's print job is the only one being printed at this time) then I as an American English speaker might say "Yes, we are actually printing that right now." Perhaps "We are indeed getting that printed." Truthfully, this emphasis doesn't seem to work as well in Western English.

  • 4
    I find it interesting that while in Ireland we have a similar use of only for emphasis that likewise sounds strange to British or American ears (or other Irish ears, as the use varies by region and class), we don't use it postpositively. "You're only a genius" or "He's only gone and fixed it already" both use only as emphasis by implying that the fact or opinion stated is so startling that it is literally the only thing that could be said. I imagine the Indian use is of similar origin, but it's interesting we do the same thing with the same word, but different syntax.
    – Jon Hanna
    Commented Feb 28, 2014 at 18:47
  • 1
    @JonHanna: Interesting indeed. If I heard either of your examples in England I would take them to be the Estuary English version of litotes, as in "He's only gone and won the lottery/ been picked up by the filth", which really need a (!) at the end. Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 16:27
  • Some might simply answer the question "yes."
    – phoog
    Commented Jul 5, 2016 at 22:31
  • @JonHanna That's very interesting, indeed. See also this question, maybe you could contribute something: english.stackexchange.com/q/333310/160195
    – Fiksdal
    Commented Jul 26, 2017 at 11:31

In India, this reference of Only has a direct relationship with the native language.. Hindi.

I'm going to a particular place. In Hindi language would mean.. "Main wahin ja raha hun"..which translates into.. I'm going there only.

That emphasis on my going to a particular place is drawn by use of only which has become a norm.

Most common are : I am home/office (indicating a particular place) only.. I have x rupees only. I'm going there only

  • My Hindi isn't that good, but I would just translate wahin (वहाँ) as "there" or "over there". It refers to a particular place, but so does the English word "there". Wiktionary and google translate also just translate it as "there".
    – nog642
    Commented Jan 5 at 22:40

Your phrase is perfectly normal, assuming you want to emphasize that it is the one sheet you are printing, not the whole document (or whatever). The Authorised Version of the book of Job has a survivor say "And I only am escaped to tell thee" which is well known enough for Roger Zelazny to use as a title for a short story. Modern versions have "I am the only one who escaped" here, so you could say That is the only one we are getting printed, adding clarity at the expense of concision and euphony. The common usage "We are only getting that printed" would not be what you want: it might mean "we are only having it printed, not engraved", or "only now are we getting it printed".


In almost all the cases you can use 'just'.

We are just getting that printed

Adds emphasis.

But avoid putting 'just' near 'that' unless you intend to imply specificity rather than mere emphasis.

We are getting just that printed

Specifies more closely what is printed.

You can even get away with that swap in constructions like:

That is just a part of Bombay.

They are just Punjabi.

I can just not understand it / I just cannot understand it

I am just in my room.

The 'just' usually goes between the main verb and a modal or helping verb when there is one.

Self-effacing people in the US often develop the same reflexive use of 'just' that Indians have of 'only'. But we like our adverbs to lie closer to their verbs.

  • 1
    You are spot on.. Its just which is more suitable and only has been used as a substitute for just... Much like revert is being used for response in Indian English usage...
    – Misti
    Commented Jul 3, 2020 at 10:05


We are only getting that printed.

Which is ambiguous (does "only" refer to "that" or to "printed"?) or:

We are getting only that printed.

Which, AFAIU, is not ambiguous.

(Emphasis is added to show where the word "only" is used, not where emphasis falls in the sentence.)


Changing the word order gives you the results you want. To use your own example, say "That's what we are getting printed". For more emphasis, you can also say "That's exactly what we are printing (doing)".


Instead of "We are getting that only printed" use "We are only getting that printed".

  • What I want to do is to emphasis on "We are getting that printed" without using bold!
    – Anirudh
    Commented Mar 15, 2013 at 10:49
  • 3
    Most downvoters don't bother to explain their downvotes. They think that you can read their mind or else they're just perverse and have no reason other than that they like drive-bys: makes 'em feel powerful.
    – user21497
    Commented Mar 15, 2013 at 11:03
  • 4
    Sorry, I was called away before I could explain my downvote. I consider "We are only getting that printed" grammatically wrong. Colloquially it's common, but by strict construction it's not right. "We are only getting that printed" means "the only thing we are doing is getting that printed." Only should come immediately before whatever it modifies. If only one item being printed, say "only that." "Only that is being printed." "We are getting only that printed." Even stronger emphasis comes if you keep "that only" and turn it into "that and that only." (continued in next comment) Commented Mar 16, 2013 at 3:03
  • 1
    The confusion arises because of the all too common practice of tossing in helping verbs where they are not needed. It would be much clearer, and would eliminate a number of problems, if this were constructed with "print" alone, instead of "getting printed." Once you split "getting" and "printed" apart, you start to create problems. Say it this way instead: "We are printing..." and then you can finish with "only that," "that only," "that and only that," "nothing but that," "nothing else but that," "that one thing," or just about any other phrase that makes your point, without confusion. Commented Mar 16, 2013 at 3:09
  • 1
    The point of the question, however, is that in Indian English "only" usually doesn't mean what it means in standard English. Read James's answer for explanation.
    – phoog
    Commented Jul 5, 2016 at 22:33

My friend, The usage of 'only' depends on the intention of the speaker. If the speaker wants to say that only he and nobody else are printing the paper, then he should be saying, 'only I am getting the paper printed.' But, if the speaker wants to tell that he is doing just one job, getting the paper printed, and nothing else, then he should be saying,'I am only getting the paper printed.' Now, if the speaker tries to convey that, of all the papers that he has if he is getting just one paper printed and nothing else, then he should probably be telling, 'I am getting only the paper printed.' Hope this clarifies your question.

  • 1
    That does not explain the Indian use of only well.
    – NVZ
    Commented Feb 5, 2017 at 6:49

I do not think there is one alternative word for 'only' to convey the meaning. Indian native languages' 'equivalent only' word is versatile and we use that word to convey our intention either of reassurance/respect/sincerity/priortity/obedience etc.. or even disrespect and understood with the tone of the speaker.

So in the above example: Assuming the speaker is meaning to imply that he is on top of things:

we are currently getting that printed


we are getting that printed with high priority


I assure you that we are getting that printed.

Depending upon the context we have to make the sentence. But it doesn't come naturally to me and I can assume that it won't be for most of us. If we are writing then we can take our time and write, but for speaking it will take time to sink in.


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