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Among them, I cannot understand the meaning of "If only other people were this efficient.". I search on Google and it seems that many others use the template "If only ... were this efficient". But in dictionary, there is no such phrase.

So what is the meaning of this statement? And is it a phrase?

  • What don't you understand?
    – Hot Licks
    Sep 2, 2020 at 1:48
  • 1
    It is a compliment to you on your efficiency. They are saying that they wish everyone they had to deal with was as efficient as you have been.
    – BoldBen
    Sep 2, 2020 at 7:19

2 Answers 2


It refers to something that has been done efficiently (in the writer’s opinion) and means “I wish strongly that other people, whom I think are inefficient, were similarly efficient in what they do”.

Note the use of “If” and the subjunctive “were”, together expressing desires, possibilities and the abstract rather than present reality.

The use of “if only” is subtle. “If only stone were cheese, we could eat it” means that stone is not cheese. In your example, the construct means that the writer feels other people are not presently efficient.


I cannot understand the meaning of "If only other people were this efficient."

"If only other people were this efficient." is half of a conditional sentence and the reader supplies the other clause. (Technically, the example clause should be preceded or followed by an ellipsis "...".)

"If only other people were this efficient, then the world would be a better place/ then everyone would be happy/ etc."


"The world would be a better place / everyone would be happy / etc, if only other people were this efficient."

As an example:

A: "I can't find my car keys..." B: "If you look on your desk..." = "You will find them if you look on your desk", or "If you look on your desk, you will find them."

  • Thank you very much. The "only" confuses me. If the original statement is "if other people were this efficient", it is easy to understand.
    – alancc
    Sep 2, 2020 at 23:02

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