Question #1: Which of the following sentences has the correct syntactic usage of the word “only”?
Question #2: What do the remaining sentences mean?
- Only I gave him $1.
- I only gave him $1.
- I gave only him $1.
- I gave him only $1.
- I gave him $1 only.
I believe all five are syntactically correct (under my own personal command of the English language).
Only I gave him $1. I was the only person to give him $1.
This might suggest that there was a situation in which others might have also given $1, but didn’t.
“He was begging for a dollar to use in the vending machine, but people passed him by. Only I gave him $1.”
I only gave him $1. I gave him money, but only $1.
It probably implies that $1 is not that much to give.
“He was two dollars short of the soda. I only gave him $1.”
I gave only him $1. He was the only person to whom I gave $1.
It might imply that I could have given $1 to others as well, but didn’t.
“There were beggars up and down the street, but I gave only him $1.”
I gave him only $1. I would consider this identical and interchangeable with ‘I only gave him $1’, though I think this is the less common choice.
I gave him $1 only. Identical in meaning to ‘I only gave him $1′, with extra emphasis on the ‘only’.
“You accuse me of giving him $5, but I gave him $1 only!”