How would the phrase "but only if" be labeled grammatically in the sentence: I will go to the store, but only if you give me money.

  • It's not a phrase, not a single constituent. "But" is a coordinator functioning as a 'marker'. "Only" is a focusing adverb modifying the if preposition phrase, thus there are two constituents, as bracketed: [but] [only if you give me money].
    – BillJ
    Commented Jan 24, 2018 at 18:36
  • 'only' modifies the subordinator 'if', which introduces the subordinate clause. There is no preposition phrase there.
    – AmI
    Commented Jan 24, 2018 at 22:47
  • No, Aml: In modern grammar, conditional "if" is analysed as a preposition, and the scopal focus of "only" is the whole PP "if you give me money". This is simply a case of Q only if P. "If" is a subordinator when it introduces closed interrogative content clauses (indirect questions), as in "he asked me if [I'd chair the meeting]".
    – BillJ
    Commented Jan 25, 2018 at 16:52
  • Even the 'basic' Wiktionary gets it right: link
    – BillJ
    Commented Jan 25, 2018 at 17:03

1 Answer 1


The ancient and venerable Warriner' English Grammar and Composition identifies if as a subordinating conjunction.

Adding but only narrows the condition described in the subordinate clause, but doesn't change the function of the phrase as a whole.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.