Is there any difference in the following sentences?

  1. This rule only applies to students
  2. This rule applies to students only
  3. This rule applies only to students

If you don't mind, please clarify the differences in meanings of the above given sentences.


"Only" can be a conjunction, an adverb or an adjective.

It is not correct to end your sentence with a conjunction, but nobody would ever do that anyway.

  • This rule only applies to students

Only can modify "This rule", "applies" or "students" here, depending on the stress.

  • This rule applies to students only

Here "only" modifies "students". But (don't throw stones at me) this might be considered to be poor style of English.

  • This rule applies only to students

Here "only" also modifies "students". I would suggest this as most correct of the three.

As a conjunction the word "only" is used as follows:

  • I'd invite Frances to the party, only (= but I will not because) I don't want her husband to come.
  • I'd call him myself, only (= but I cannot because) I'm at work all day.
  • I'd be happy to do it for you, only (= but) don't expect it to be done before next week.
  • This fabric is similar to wool, only (= except that it is) cheaper.
  • Thank you, So much for your detailed explanation. by the way can i put like this, "Only this rule applies to students" – Joann Dec 1 '16 at 12:17
  • only is an adverb here. Not a conjunction. – user178049 Dec 1 '16 at 12:37
  • @user178049 We know! – SovereignSun Dec 1 '16 at 12:43
  • In "This rule only applies to students" only can only be referring to "applies". The basic rule is that only modifies the nearest noun/adjective/adverb. Also, if you are going to mention only as a conjunction, it may be helpful to have an example of that use for contrast – eques Dec 1 '16 at 14:12

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