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Which one is correct

"If only I had time to eat healthy"

or

"If I had only time to eat healthy"

The message I am trying to convey is that if I had time to eat healthy, I would for sure do it.

  • As the answers suggest, your second example doesn't work; however, there is one other idiomatic way of saying this: If I only had time to eat health(il)y, as in the Wizard of Oz classic song(s), If I only had (a brain/a heart/the nerve). – 1006a Jun 2 '17 at 15:40
  • Just the words "If only." are used as a slang complete sentence. It's used as a confirming response to a statement, meaning "If that was the case, then surely"; the same sense you're talking about here. – fixer1234 Jun 2 '17 at 17:41
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Changing your example to better explain the differences:

If only I had a hammer to hit you with

I do not have a hammer; but I would hit you if I had one at my disposal.

If I had only a hammer to hit you with

I have more options at my disposal than just a hammer. A bowling ball, a baseball bat, ... I wish I only had one option (the hammer), presumably so I wouldn't be trying to figure out what I should use to hit you.


The second one sounds very weird, even if it is grammatically correct. You need the first example for your current question.


There are cases where it would make sense:

If I had only my boss to worry about, I could leave work early today.

You wish it was only your boss who could stop you from leaving work early; because you know that your boss isn't a problem. However, there are other people (more than just your boss) who are preventing you from leaving work early.

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  • +1 for a very clear explanation. A small note—I think you probably meant to have a comma rather than a semicolon after the subordinate "if" clause in your last example. – 1006a Jun 2 '17 at 15:41
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    I think the if only from the first example is influencing you in the other examples. There’s no wish in “If I had only X”, it’s just a hypothetical statement. “If I had only a hammer to hit you with, you’d probably beat me to a pulp” doesn’t imply that I wish to be beaten to a pulp—it just says that’s what would happen if a hammer were all I had. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Feb 1 '18 at 21:30
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Both sentences are grammatically correct. However, it is the first one that conveys the meaning you are trying get across.

If only... says that the condition that follows, I had time to eat healthy, is the what is preventing you from doing the last (unwritten) part, [I would do so].

In your second sentence, the positioning of only makes it apply to time alone. It's saying that if the only time you had was for eating healthy...

Hope this helps!

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