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There are four sentences about where to place only:

It can only be used once.

It can be only used once.

It can be used only once.

It can be used once only.

Do these mean the same? If so, which is more usual?

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    The second one is wrong, the others are all said to achieve different emphasis. Mar 25, 2021 at 10:12

1 Answer 1

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It can only be used once.

It can be only used once.

It can be used only once.

It can be used once only.

The 2nd example is unusual.

Which of the rest to use depends on your intention.

In the 1st example, the adverb 'only' modifies 'used'. That is, we cannot sell it, for example.

The 3rd and 4th are similar, with the adverb 'only' modifying 'once'. That is, we cannot use it twice.

Misplaced modifiers can lead to miscommunication.

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  • What about this sentence: It can be used only. In this sentence, only modifies used, I think it does. But if place a once behind or before only, it changes to modify once. How should I understand this in more other cases, is there any general rule? Or must I put it in full context?
    – yixuan
    Mar 26, 2021 at 1:51
  • Normally we say 'it can only be used.' Here is one of the many reference websites. grammarly.com/blog/modifiers Mar 26, 2021 at 14:05

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