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Isn't there a difference (or aren't there differences) with the following?

  • I only drive to work on Fridays
  • I drive only to work on Fridays
  • I drive to work only on Fridays
  • I drive to work on Fridays only

Though C and D may be the same. Don't people usually mean C or D even if they say A?

I ask because in "Word Crimes", Weird Al says "You should only write in emoticons" but I think he should have said "You should write only in emoticons" or "you should write in emoticons only", right?

  • 2
    This looks perilously close to the top question in the Related sidebar. What is here that is not answered there? – Andrew Leach Jul 23 '14 at 12:49
  • These limiting modifiers are notorious. D means 'The only day that I drive to work is Friday.' C would normally be taken to mean this, but could mean 'On Fridays, the only way I ever go to work is by driving.' B would normally be taken to mean 'The only time I drive is to get to work on Fridays.' A could mean 'The only way I get to work on Fridays is by driving' but is, as you imply, often used for 'The only day I drive to work is on a Friday.' In conversation, the difference is shown by stressing 'drive' or '[on] Fridays'. – Edwin Ashworth Jul 23 '14 at 13:17
  • If you place a subtle emphasis on the word drive, Option A could also mean, "I only drive to work on Fridays but I don't really work!" For effect, let me finish with an emoticon :-) – user82373 Jul 23 '14 at 13:36
  • Completely different. He asks about mosquitoes while I ask about driving. – Tony Chamberlain Jul 23 '14 at 21:25
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I only drive to work on Fridays

Other days, I take the bus to work.
Or, if the emphasis is I only drive / to work on Fridays: The only reason I'd be driving at all is to get to work which is only on Fridays.

I drive only to work on Fridays

But other days, I drive to work, the store. On Fridays, I might walk to the store.

I drive to work only on Fridays

Other days, I take the bus [to work].
Possibly, I drive / to work only on Fridays. There is a pun (drive: ambition) here. But even if I [verb] / to work only on Fridays, it still keeps that feel of The reason I [verb] is to work only on Fridays. (Yay! Working on Fridays only!)

I drive to work on Fridays only

Other days, I might take other methods of transportation.

Note that most of the sentences can be read in different ways, depending on inflection.

In my opinion, the only true matches are A and D: (I only something) and (I something only). C matches, too, no doubt, but the whole sentence doesn't have an unambiguous tone.

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