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Let's say I arrive outside my friend's house. He's expexting me. I need a cigarette, so I smoke one outside. I see my friend in the window. He sees me. I finish smoking and walks up to the front door. My friend opens the door. I say "I just needed a smoke" to explain why I kept him waiting.

It seems natural to me, but I'm uncertain about what "just" means in this scenario?

I don't intend it to mean "only" or "I just so needed a smoke". I can't explain what I intend it to mean, and I'm not sure if any of the definitions I found in the dictionary is the one I'm looking for (it probably is though). So what could it mean? And what would it be taken to mean in my context? Thank you in advance.

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    I would understand it to mean "The only reason I didn't knock on the door straight away was that I needed a smoke first". Feb 21, 2022 at 16:00
  • I'm sorry but you don't know what it means and you say it anyway? How odd.
    – Lambie
    Sep 12, 2023 at 13:16

3 Answers 3

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It is a natural expression and depending on the listener I would expect it to be widely understood.

You say you don't intend it to mean "only" but surely it does mean the same thing as:

(Sorry I didn't knock on your door straight away) I only needed a smoke (before I was ready)

That probably doesn't sound as natural, but it means the same thing.

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Just has a broad range of meanings, of which I suspect a combination of those below is closest to what you intended.

ADVERB

1 Exactly.
‘that's just what I need’

1.1 Exactly or almost exactly at this or that moment.
‘she's just coming’

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Here just means 'simply'. We can use 'just' to add emphasis to a statement.

I needed a smoke.

I just needed a smoke.

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