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The shops could only stay open because the owner paid protection money.

I can not understand the necessity of the only.

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    I woyld say It wouldn't be as much clear otherwise! – Cardinal Aug 6 at 7:51
  • Try displacing 'only', like "The shops could stay open only because the owner paid protection money." – Ram Pillai Aug 6 at 9:16
  • The focusing adverb "only" is required to show that it was because the owner paid protection money, and for no other reason, that the shops could stay open. You could drop "only" but it would weaken the force of the statement. – BillJ Aug 6 at 9:23
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In this sentence, "only" is providing the specific reason for why the shops could stay open. If you removed the word "only" from the sentence, it would read "The shops could stay open because the owner paid protection money." This sentence would still be grammatically correct, but it fails to explain why the owner paid protection money. Adding the word "only" tells us why the shop owner paid protection money: the only way the shops could stay open was if the owner paid protection money. Instead of saying, "The shops could only stay open because the owner paid protection money," you could say, "The only reason the shops could stay open was because the owner paid protection money." In both sentences, the word "only" is referring to the sole reason for why the shops stayed open: the owner paid protection money.

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  • Why not say,’ The shops could only stay open when the owners paid protection money.’ ? Do you feel that using when is better than because? – Y. zeng Aug 6 at 7:59
  • No, because that implies a temporal relationship, not a strictly causative one. "Only" and "because" together like this (as others have said, they can go multiple places in the sentence) form a unique logical relationship: If not B, then not A, and A and B are true. "When" would mean If not B, then not A, and if B, then A, and B is sometimes true. – the-baby-is-you Aug 6 at 10:52
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Here, the word "only" shows that there is no other way that the shops could have stayed open. Without the word "only", there is a possibility that other methods (eg. taking out a loan) could have kept the shops open.

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