She just doesn‘t know how to bring up children.

In the above sentence, what does just mean?


4 Answers 4


The sense of just in the sentence is the following: ​

used to make a statement or order stronger, like in:

  • He just won't do as he's told.
  • It's just too expensive.

(Collins Dictionary)

  • This is correct. "Just" in this context is being used for emphasis or to draw attention to the importance of the associated clause. When used in a negative context ("He just won't do it") it's often dismissive, reducing the apparent value or credebility of the subject. In a positive context ("he's just perfect") the context is often exclusionary, brooking no further debate.
    – JBH
    Commented Dec 26, 2018 at 18:20
  • For a little more clarification for OP, you could replace "just" in this usage with "simply" - She simply doesn't know how to bring up children. (Yes, the emphasis/meaning is slightly different, but for all practical purposes they'd mean the same thing). Edit: Didn't see an Answer points this out too...
    – BruceWayne
    Commented Dec 27, 2018 at 18:16

Expanding on user070221's answer, it also depends on the context.

For example, "just" could be used here as a caveat (one disadvantage in an otherwise good situation):

PersonA: Do you think PersonC will be a good mother?

PersonB: Well she keeps her home very organized and can cook healthy meals. She just doesn't know how to bring up children.

Another similar example, where "just" communicates an excuse:

PersonA: My mom was really tough on me as a child. She hurt my feelings a lot.

PersonB: I know, but your mom loves you. She just doesn't know how to bring up children.

There are probably other contexts too but these are the ones I could think of.

  • 3
    It could also be used to express a degree of either pity or contempt, e.g. "She had a really bad childhood herself, so..." or "We've tried and tried to show her, but..."
    – jamesqf
    Commented Dec 26, 2018 at 18:13
  • 2
    It can also indicate a sense of finality. In Fellix's example (and without further context), I read it as indicating the woman, in addition to not knowing how to raise kids, is incapable of learning how to raise them.
    – mpr
    Commented Dec 26, 2018 at 21:19

No need to accuse her of being cruel or abusive or neglectful or inconsiderate toward her children. She's also not selfish or stupid.

The truth is, she just doesn't know how to be a good mother.

I think that as she matures and with her family's support, the kids will be okay.

The "just" eliminates the other potential causes for the action.


To give a shortcut: uses of 'just' in that form, can normally be replaced by 'simply' without changing the meaning.

"she simply doesn't know how to be a good mother"

However, 'just' is normally the more friendly version.

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