"There are not only bears in the north." - sentence ambiguous in English

Translation: Északon nem csak medvék vannak.

This sentence is difficult to translate into Hungarian because it is ambiguous in English.

In particular, I immediately interpreted it as "There are bears in places other than the north." However, it is meant to be understood as "There are animals other than bears in the north."

Do you think you could add either possibility as a valid translation? Thank you!

December 1, 2016


I'd say: "There are not only bears in the north" for the second one, and for the first one I'd say "There are bears not only in the north". The words "not only" switch to before the word bear, and after to get rid of ambiguity and make it clearer.

December 1, 2016

While I agree that when the two are juxtaposed it is clear which meaning is intended, the sentence alone is still ambiguous. It's one where spoken emphasis really matters.

I really can't think of a way to write it better though. "In the north, there are not only bears" is awkward.

December 1, 2016

I agree, the whole sentence sounds iffy to me too. Honestly if I were to be speaking to my friends, I'd definitely say "The north isn't the only one that has bears" or "Bears aren't only found in the north"

December 1, 2016

I think I can explain. Only is one of the most confusing words in English grammar. Being an adverb, it can modify pretty much everything. Including phrases.

It should always go in front of the thing it is modifying, but in an example like this, it is not clear if only modifies bears, or if only modifies the entire unit bears in the north.

The reason it is difficult to rewrite is because not only is usually always part of a not only...but also construction. If there is no but also, then it should be implied.

Your sentence In the north, there are not only bears would be less awkward making the but also explicit: In the north, there are not only bears, but also other animals

It also fixes the other interpretation of the original sentence: There are not only bears in the north but also bears in the south

December 2, 2016
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