https://www.duolingo.com/karasu4

'Only' in French.

There are several ways of saying 'only' in French, and I'm curious about how they would 'rank' on a scale of formality, i.e. what to use in speech, and how to put it in writing.

For instance, Wordreference.com gives three ex. on how to say 'I only want a sandwich for lunch':

  • Je veux seulement un sandwich pour le déjeuner.

  • Je ne veux qu'un sandwich pour le déjeuner.

  • Je veux uniquement un sandwich pour le déjeuner.

Which one would be more common to use colloquially? Is any of them more formal? And is it common to use 'ne... que...' when speaking, and dropping the 'ne', as with 'ne... pas'?

November 18, 2018

34 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/Giovanna-Louise

seulement -is more commonly used in "proper" speech/writing.. ..at least to my knowledge..

ne..que -is correct as well and is widely used in the casual/colloquial French both in oral and written..

as the user above commented (@pepsidolphin) ,yes often "ne" is dropped in colloquial speech and only "que" is used.. I 've seen that in written French in casual comments..

uniquement is used actually , but very rare..

Hope this helps..

November 18, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Anna.5..

From my understanding (I'm also here to learn french):

  • Je veux seulement un sandwich pour le déjeuner: I only want a sandwich to lunch

  • Je ne veux qu'un sandwich pour le déjeuner: I do not want more than one sandwich to lunch

  • Je veux uniquement un sandwich pour le déjeuner: I only want just one sandwich to lunch

Using them would be in the emphasis you want to give to your writing/speech

November 18, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Giovanna-Louise

all good examples of changing meaning..I agree..

November 18, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Bob758414

Same

November 18, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/angus390025

Technically, the middle one doesn't contain the word "only." It just says "I want nothing but a sandwich for lunch"

The other two have the word only. This reminds me of a thread comparing solamente to unicamente in Spanish, but in that case the question was about saying "only I was responsible for that" (no one else should take the blame) and "I was only responsible for that" (I will take the blame for that, but not other stuff). Not sure that this helps us here.

In the pen-pal relationships I've had with French speakers, the "n...que..." is more common when they write to me, so I conclude that this is the most common in informal speech. I tend to use seulement when I write. We seem to understand each other well enough. I also use seulement when I speak to French people. (For example we were in Guadeloupe for two weeks this past summer and the landlady of my condo spoke no English so I had to communicate with her in French. I had to resort to handwaving on a few occasions but it all worked out. When I said things like "it's only as short distance" I instinctively used seulement and she seemed to understand.) So I think you could use either of those.

I don't recall hearing uniquement in face-to-face conversations, although I do see it in the newspapers. For example, here's a story about LSD use in the United States in today's on-line edition of Le Monde. You can find the word uniquement used twice. Note that it really means "only" in both sentences (at least as I translate them in my mind).

https://www.lemonde.fr/substances-et-dependances/article/2018/11/18/le-lsd-a-80-ans-de-la-psychiatrie-a-la-contre-culture-americaine_5385161_5384058.html?xtmc=uniquement&xtcr=1

November 18, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/commoncola

I'm not 100% sure if I'm right but I believe that:

seulement: Is what schools teach in French. This is your formal version of "only".

ne...que: This is what people on the streets use. The "ne" also can be dropped.

uniquement: The only time that I have ever seen this used is the button on YouTube where it says "Only Videos" (as opposed to seeing videos and community posts).

I hope this helps!

November 18, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/chapiplouf

On dirait le plus communément "Je ne veux qu'un sandwich pour le déjeuner.". Pour le dire de façon plus soutenue, vous devriez utiliser le conditionnel et dire " Je voudrais un sandwich pour le déjeuner, s'il-vous-plaît.". On dit souvent ne...que, ce qui a le même sens que "seulement". Je ne veux qu'un café = je veux seulement un café, par exemple. Mais prononce couramment le "ne" "n' ".

November 18, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/karasu4

Merci beaucoup de m'avoir répondu en français !

Alors, si je comprends bien, on peut dire "ne... que..." ou "seulement" à sa guise.

Mais, est-ce qu'on dit 'Je n'veux qu'un café' plutôt que 'Je veux qu'un café' ?

November 18, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Papy-Jeff

Je ne veux qu'un café.

November 21, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Cleanthe3

The learners here are doing a good job . I'm a native speaker and their answers are correct . It's sunday, we (the natives) can have a rest ...zzzzz .... :)

November 18, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Ken482461

"...Il est cinq heures..Paris se léve...il est cinq heures, je n'ai pas sommeil…"

November 18, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Giovanna-Louise

Est-ce d'une chanson?

November 19, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Papy-Jeff

"Il est 5 heures, Paris s'éveille" de Jacques Dutronc (1968). Ça ne nous rejeunit pas !

November 21, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Giovanna-Louise

Mais, si! :-) Merci beaucoup ! Je vraiment apprécie ça ..

November 21, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Giovanna-Louise

@Cleanthe..

Merci beaucoup pour ce bel compliment, mais c'est sûr que nous aurons toujours besoin de vous, des langues maternelles de français...:-))

November 19, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Cleanthe3

Mais je t'en prie ! ;)

"ce beau compliment " = compliment est masculin et commence par une consonne alors "beau"

Ça y'est, c'est lundi, je suis réveillée ;)

November 19, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Giovanna-Louise

Ah, je vois...merci bien..:-)

November 19, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/karasu4

Mille mercis à tous qui ont répondu ! Vous m'avez aidé beaucoup.

November 18, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Acommunist

vous m'avez beaucoup aidé is more normal

November 18, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/karasu4

Ah, thanks! I'll remember that.

But placing it at the end is not ungrammatical either?

November 18, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Lemniscatarum

I'm guessing it's grammatically correct. Acommunist only mentioned it sounding less natural.

November 18, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Giovanna-Louise

to my understanding it's not incorrect technically but looks unnatural to a French speaker

November 19, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/EmmieAmazing

Je voulais trouver une discussion en français, et ce fut la première à apparaître. Alors, voici la chose, si vous pouvez complètement lire ceci en français et le traduire en anglais, essayez d’être le premier à répondre à la définition. Assurez-vous de ne pas utiliser Google Translate, ce serait tricher! Oh, et si vous utilisez Google Translate, cela se traduit différemment par des conversations que vous n’utiliseriez pas dans une conversation normale, alors, ah! Je t'ai!

November 19, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Acommunist

je veux seulement un sandwich pour le déjeuner

November 18, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Fredrikke498889

I'm not a native English speaker, so I might be wrong, but I thought "only/just" had kind of the same meaning in English? For ex. "I am just a child" vs. "I am only a child".

Can you use the word "juste" in french like you use "just/only" in English? "Je suis juste un enfant"?

November 19, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Giovanna-Louise

I believe you can..however it would be better if a native speaker would respond here..I 've seen it used like that.

November 19, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Cleanthe3

Yes, indeed , "je suis juste un enfant / je ne suis qu'un enfant / je suis seulement un enfant " is the same , there is maybe a slight difference in the meaning but it's nothing .

November 19, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Lemniscatarum

What about "Je suis uniquement un enfant"? Does that carry the same meaning?

November 19, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Cleanthe3

Yes also but it's a bit .. unusual ..I don't know .... It's like you want to say that you are really just one thing : a child , but really "just a child and nothing else" . Well , I'd rather use the other forms in this sentence .

As the others users said " uniquement " is less used in spoken french and we find it more written in articles or in informative signs like : les femmes et les enfants uniquement / en français uniquement ....

November 19, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Jonas.duolingo

parfait, merci!

November 19, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/angus390025

related: I got the following exercise today in a duolingo french exercise under "Countries"

https://forum.duolingo.com/comment/26895781

It's an easy translation. I got it in French and had to translate it into English. I wish I had the English version so I could experiment with uniquement and seulement. Watch out for that one and try uniquement to see if it is accepted as "correct."

November 21, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Papy-Jeff

Moi, je dirais : 1) je veux seulement... (un seul sandwich, et rien d'autre : ni dessert, ni boisson...). 2) je ne veux qu'un... (je n'en veux pas deux ou trois). 3) je veux uniquement (même chose que le 1, car, dans ce sens, "uniquement" et "seulement" sont synonymes).

November 21, 2018
Learn French in just 5 minutes a day. For free.