You've got to remember Irish doesn't deal with this the same way as in English. amháin does mean "only" as well as "one", Wiktionary has the example sentence mise amháin: "only me". Ach amháin literally means "but only", but it can be translated as "except for", "only" etc. in English. In English you can use assume the "but"/"except", but you can't in Irish. If you look at the sentence, using both phrases gets you the same meaning. Just use whatever allowable option you prefer, or suggest another translation under Report a Problem if you think it's better. https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/amh%C3%A1in
Here's where I am confused. You say, "If you look at the sentence, using both phrases gets you the same meaning," but to me, these are opposites.
If I say, "I'll take it, except for the shoes," that means I don't want the shoes.
If I say, "I'll take it, but only the shoes," or "I'll take it, only the shoes," then I want the shoes and nothing else.
I can understand that, in Irish, ach=but, amháin=only, and ach amháin=except for. But I don't understand how, in English, except for=only. I can't even see how you would tell which is meant from context.
Is it maybe a UK vs US thing?
I see what you mean now. I don't think it's a UK / US Ireland thing (I'm UK). I'd probably phrase the first sentence as "but not the shoes" (in Irish that is, the English looks fine). I meant they seem the same in the sense you could say "I'll take it, except I don't want the shoes" or "I'll take it, only I don't want the shoes." It could be Irish simply doesn't construct sentences in way that "except" vs. "only" can be confused, but I'm not qualified to say for sure. Someone else might see your question and answer it better! If they don't you could post a question on someone's profile. galaxyrocker, Scilling and alexinIreland are likely to know.
Apologies for the late reply and if you've already got an answer, but I think I have it now. According to Teach Yourself Irish (chap. 13 if you're interested), there is no exact equivalent to "only" for your second example (but only the shoes). You have to make the sentence negative with "ní.. ach...". You'd say but nothing but the shoes. They example they give is cheannaigh mé ceann amháin/"I bought one" vs. níor cheannaigh mé ach ceann amháin/"I didn't buy but one"
I typed "but one pair of shoes", and was also wrong.
This is a bit confusing, since "brístí"/"briste" is translated as "pair of pants", and if you said "Tá ach amhain bríste agam" it seems like that would mean "I have but one pair of trousers."
Why doesn't that apply here? Is this some sort of common idiom?
How would you say "only one of the shoes"? I suppose that's not really a proper sentence in English, given that it doesn't have a verb, so it doesn't make sense when I try to translate it... So to rephrase, would "only one of the shoes is there" be "níl ach amháin do na bróga ann"?
I've got the word "brógaí" in my head as well, for some reason - have I just made that up?