Sign up with your email address to be the first to know about new products, VIP offers, blog features & more.

The wrong usage of the word “only” by English speakers in India

The question asks: Indians have the habit of using the word “only” to give stress. Is it grammatically correct, and if not, is there a replacement? (e.g. He didn’t come only. He’s like that only. He was there only.) (To vote and comment on Quora, visit the link here.)

The way many Indians use the word “only” is incorrect, and this is the single most common mistake I observe even from some of the best English speakers here. The reason is that the Hindi word ही has two usages, both of which ideally have their own different ways of translating into English. Only one of those two usages is in the sense of “only”, but many people tend to translate the word into “only” even when it is the second meaning they want to use.

First usage of the word ही:

Purpose: to mean “only”


वह अभी तीस साल का ही है.
Translation: He is only thirty. (OR He is just thirty.)

Second usage of the word ही:

Purpose: to give stress on a word


(without stress) मैं वहां खड़ा था = I was standing there.

When stressed on “वहां” (“there”), it becomes:

मैं तो वहीँ खड़ा था. (वहीँ is a contracted form of वहां ही)

Correct translation: I was standing there itself.

But many speakers use the first translation in the second context as well:

Wrong translation: “I was standing there only.”

Another example:

मैंने ही उसे ऐसा करने कहा  था.

Correct translation: It was I who told her to do it this way. OR I was the one who told her to do it this way.

Wrong translation: I only told her to do it this way.

The correct forms of the sentences given by you are:

1. It was just that he didn’t come.
2. That’s the way he is.
3. He was there itself.

As you see, there are several available replacements in standard English, depending upon the context. That’s a reason why many people to whom English doesn’t come naturally, prefer to have it easy by using “only”.

1 Response
  • Sreelesh
    Jun 8, 2016

    Good one

What do you think?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *