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“I didn't put my name in that goblet!” said Harry, starting to feel angry.

“Yeah, okay,” said Ron, in exactly the same sceptical tone as Cedric. “Only you said this morning you'd have done it last night, and no one would've seen you.…I'm not stupid, you know.”

“You're doing a really good impression of it,” Harry snapped.

“Yeah?” said Ron, ...

I don't quite understand the use of 'only' here. Is it modifying "this morning", 'you' or something else? What does it truly convey?

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    I think it's a peripheral modifier modifying "you". Dec 16, 2018 at 5:58
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    It could be an adjective. ("Only you" would mean "No one else except you." If that is correct, it implies Harry was the "only person" who said "I'd have done it last night, and no one would've seen me.") It might not be an adjective though. Here, it could be a conjunction instead, meaning "yet"/"however"/"but." (In other words, "You say you didn't put your name in the goblet... [but] your words from this morning make me think you DID!") To determine which is the case, look at the context. Was Harry the only one who spoke about the goblet earlier, and if so, then what did he say? Dec 16, 2018 at 6:21
  • @LittleCarol, Hmmm.... I don't remember if it has been said by Harry in the previous context of the book.
    – dan
    Dec 16, 2018 at 6:25
  • Have you ever seen "It's just that", for example, "I would like to come with you, it's just that I'm really busy"? It's the same thing. "Only" basically means there's only one problem/objection/doubt/etc. It does mean but, but by using only you can quite nicely suggest that there's a small snag
    – Au101
    Dec 17, 2018 at 20:30

2 Answers 2

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"Only" doesn't really modify anything in that sentence. It's kind of an informal figure of speech that conveys the idea of mild objection to what was just said. Sort of like, "But....".

I think it is an abbreviation of something like "Only one problem, ....", or "I only want to say, ....", or maybe, "Only one thing wrong, ...."

People use it in speech, but usually don't write it, because it's pretty casual talk.

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  • Thanks! As a side, does "You're doing a really good impression of it" mean Ron imitated Harry's words very well?
    – dan
    Dec 16, 2018 at 6:27
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    @Dan: "You're imitating 'stupid' very well". Ron has just said "I'm not stupid".
    – TimR
    Dec 16, 2018 at 15:49
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Consider:

I'd bake you a cake, only I don't have any flour.

There only means "except" or "but".

Ron is saying, "Sure, that would be plausible... except, you said you could have done it".

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