The Difference Between ‘Only’ and ‘Just’ for EFL Students

Anglica Language School
2 min readNov 15, 2020

Demystifying the tricky difference for students of English as a foreign language.

Photo by Tamarcus Brown on Unsplash

There can be many times when English seems to be a very difficult and confusing language. There are some times when you have two phrases that translate the same way into your language, but in English they are not exactly the same.

Today, we will look at the difference between ‘just’ and ‘only’.

Students of English often ask the question, ‘What is the difference between…’, and rightly so. There are many aspects of English where two options are possible… but not always!

Photo by Hatice Yardım on Unsplash

There are many aspects of English where two options are possible… but not always!

So what is the difference between ‘only’ and ‘just’?

The answer is actually quite simple and will help you use these two words correctly:

The word ‘just’ has two meanings:

  • solely
  • very recently

The word ‘only’ has only one of the above meanings:

  • solely

Can you see how the meanings overlap but are not equal? Let’s have a look at some examples:

  1. SOLELY (‘just’ and ‘only’):

I ate only/just one cookie.

I’ve seen only/just 1 movie this week.

I’ve visited only/just one foreign country.

Only/just two people showed up at the party.

I only/just use the computer for work, not for playing.

Photo by Luis Rivera on Unsplash

I ate only/just one cookie.

2. VERY RECENTLY (‘just” but NOT ‘only’)

I’ve just seen Luana in the street.

I’ve just mopped the floor and now it’s dirty again.

I’ve just remembered — Ann was looking for you.

I’ve just started working here.

Photo by Jorge Gardner on Unsplash

I’ve just seen Luana in the street.

If you memorise the rule about “solely” and “very recently” meanings, you should be able to always remember how to use these two words correctly.

Written by Joanna Bartosz-Donohoe, the owner of Anglica Language School



Anglica Language School

Anglica delivers best-in-class online English language courses for everyone. See everything we do at