I have a female friend called Alice (fake name). Someone else asked me if she is my girlfriend. I want to tell them that she is not my girlfriend but only friend. By "only" I want to mean that the only relationship between us is friendship. But the sentence below is ambiguous:

she is my only friend

It means two things to me:

  1. she is the only friend I have (that is, I don't have any other friends)
  2. she is my only friend (she is not my *girlfriend but only friend)

How can I remove the ambiguity? If I want to say that the only relationship we have is friendship.

  • You've explained the problem well. "My only friend" means the only one I've got, to deny that I've got two friends. "My friend only" means that she's nothing more than a friend, to deny that she's also a girlfriend for example.
    – Chaim
    Feb 15, 2021 at 5:34
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    If A asks you whether B is your girlfriend, it would be natural to answer in the negative by saying "She's only a friend," a third possibility. This would be more conversational and less formal than saying "my friend only."
    – Chaim
    Feb 15, 2021 at 5:49
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    +1 for "only a friend" as the most idiomatic way of saying it IMO. "My friend only" sounds weird to me — more like you were saying that she has no other friends. Feb 15, 2021 at 9:43
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    What @anotherdave said. She is my only friend unambiguously asserts that I have no other friends apart from her. Note that She is only my friend and She is my friend only are both potentially ambiguous - depending on context, they could EITHER mean that's all she is to me (she's not my fiancee or wife, for example), OR that she's not the friend of anyone else apart from me (but neither of them could ever mean the same as the first version). Feb 15, 2021 at 15:41

1 Answer 1


Before a noun, as an adjective 'only' means 'sole, unique, alone, solitary' - she is my only friend (I don't have any other friends). Used as an adverb, it means something is limited to the thing stated - she is only a/my friend, she is a/my friend only (she is nothing more to me than a friend).

Only (Cambridge Dictionary)

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