I would like to learn where in a sentence the word "just" can or can't be placed and how the sentence meaning will change depending on the position. Below are some sample sentences I made up myself with each followed by my interpretation in parenthesis.

  1. He just doesn't like working for someone else.
    (Simply, he doesn't want to work for someone else.)

  2. He doesn't just like working for someone else.
    (He likes working for someone else, but it is something more significant for him. e.g. his life purpose)

  3. He doesn't like just working for someone else.
    (He doesn't dislike working, and it matters little whom he works for, but it matters the reasons for the work. For example, he possibly sees more value in helping people than in simply working for profit.)

  4. He doesn't like working just for someone else.
    (He doesn't dislike working, but if the work is solely for the benefit of any particular individual(s) or organization(s), then he's not interested. Possibly, he would like to be his own boss, or to do something for the sake or happiness of people around the world, for instance.)

Q1. Do the four sample sentences all sound natural to you?

Q2. Is my interpretation for each sentence reasonably correct?

By the way, I translated them into Japanese, my native tongue, with Google Translate. Interestingly, all the first three sentences were translated into the same Japanese, which reads "He doesn't like working for someone else". Google Translate seems to have judged that the "just" in each of the three sentences just meant nothing.

I would appreciate your advice.


I'd say that the four sample sentences do sound natural, and your interpretations are intuitively correct. They carry different connotations depending on the fine position of 'just' in the sentence, hence the translations using Google Translate may not get the meaning right.

Apart from placing emphasis on the object/action, in this case 'working for someone else', another common usage for 'just' is to incorporate the notion of time. Although the placement of 'just' for those cases is considerably more restricted in that sense.

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