I have a question regarding proper grammar.

Which is correct?

  1. Please reply only to me.
  2. Please reply to me only.

Thank you.


The first example ("reply only to me") is preferable for two reasons:

  1. "Only to me" is an adverb phrase that describes "reply". In most cases, you should put an adverb itself ("only") as close as possible to the verb that it modifies to prevent confusion (https://itknowledgeexchange.techtarget.com/writing-for-business/adverb-placement-direct-objects/).

  2. That's the way most native speakers will say it, even if they don't have a specific reason why.

The second phrasing ("reply to me only") is not incorrect in a technical sense. "To me only" is still an adverb phrase modifying "reply". But it feels strange and old-fashioned to a modern listener.

When speaking, use either one. People tend to just say the words in whatever order they think of them. When writing, I would stick to example 1.


Actually, the most common form would probably be Please only reply to me. Consider this chart...

enter image description here

The fact of the matter is only can quite naturally be used in all three positions with exactly the same meaning, and it's pointlessly pedantic in most contexts to worry about whether it might modify different words (i.e. - reply, or me) depending on where it's placed.

We often introduce the word only as early as possible in an utterance, to give it more emphasis. And this is usually a more relevant factor than the strict logic of "You should place only as near as possible to the specific word it modifies".

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