Lost in negativity...

I'm having a hard time figuring out things like

Il n'y a qu'un seul moyen

It looks like "There's NOT (any) one sole way" to me... am I translating it wrong? If not, is there any equivalent structure in English (something like "There's but one way to do it")?

Or do I just need to say "That's the way it is in French" and memorize it?

December 15, 2015


'Ne... pas' would negate the verb, but here we have 'ne... que'. That means ONLY something. So it means 'there is only only one way', which is just reinforcing the only!

Basically, the structure is that 'ne...que' means 'only' with a verb.

December 15, 2015

So "il y a seulement ..." is pretty much the same thing as "il n'y a seule ...", then? Is the second one more emphatic, perhaps?

December 15, 2015

No. Il y a seulement... = Il n'y a que.... You can add the adjective "seul" to the object in the second sentence in order to emphasise it even more, like in the example you brought.

December 15, 2015

Ah - I see! Thank you, that made the light come on. :)

December 15, 2015

You're welcome :)

December 16, 2015

In the original sentence, seule is an adjective: the sole way, if you like. Then the verb can also be given an 'only' meaning, using 'il n'ya que'; they're separate parts.

December 15, 2015

Even more context - just what I needed, thanks!

December 15, 2015

My friend, those kind of sentences are not meant to be explained. Learn them by heart because they are used a lot in every day conversations. Even native speakers sometimes can't write them correctly. Just memorize how it sounds and what it's supposed to mean.

October 29, 2018
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