The word just is one of those overused words that carries little meaning and appears to just clutter up a sentence (oops, did it again).

  • When is the use of just justified?
  • What are better, clearer constructions (e.g. replace just with only)
  • When should the word be dropped altogether?

3 Answers 3


I'd say a good rule of thumb is to use it when you need it for clarity or to add a special emphasis.

There were just three jars of honey left.

This is different from

There were three jars of honey left.

because it gives the sense that three jars of honey is not a lot, or at least that you don't think it is.

So the answer is no, don't give it up entirely. Just trust yourself to use it less. Think of it as dieting. If you have the willpower, you can write lean sentences.


As other words, use it when it adds a meaning to the sentence, and not just to use it.

A just and democratic society (it is different from a democratic society).
We all get our just deserts (it is different from we all get our deserts).
I've just seen the local paper (it is different from I've seen the local paper).
They were just interested in making money (it is different from they were interested in making money, but it is similar to they were only interested in making money).
They are just great (it is different from they are great).
"Simon really messed things up." "Didn't he just?"

[Reference: The New Oxford American Dictionary.]

  • "I've just seen the local paper" isn't different from "I've just seen the local paper" (and similarly for the "making money" example) :-)
    – psmears
    Feb 14, 2011 at 20:48
  • @psmears: There is a difference.
    – apaderno
    Feb 14, 2011 at 20:49
  • 2
    @kiamlaluno: well, there is now that you’ve corrected it with the edit :-P
    – PLL
    Feb 14, 2011 at 20:59
  • I don't believe the first two examples are accurate to the question at hand - just in those two are short forms of the word justice, or at least have that connotation.
    – Will
    Feb 14, 2011 at 21:33
  • 1
    @Will: just, in the first two sentences, is not a short for justice; try replacing just with justice, and you will see it doesn't make sense (also because justice is a noun, and not an adjective). just in the first sentence means based on or behaving according to what is morally right and fair; in the second sentence, it means deserved or appropriate in the circumstances. [Reference: New Oxford American Dictionary.]
    – apaderno
    Feb 14, 2011 at 22:03

I've pondered this word many times. It also has a singular/universal/variant side.

As the Catholic Church says, "It is right and it is just..." where "just" is used to imply law and legality, similar to justice. This form of "just" applies a meaning that it includes all people, therefore universal.

"I just want to kiss." Here it means only me, I am the only one who wants something and the thing I want is only a kiss.

Then there are others, "just in time", which is neither universal or singular but in this case it's an approximation to a specific time.

Just recently I noticed that just this law is not just onto Bedouins and their herds.

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