I've just eaten a burrito.

Would this be correctly interpreted as

  1. "I've recently eaten a burrito"

  2. "I've only eaten a burrito"

Or are both valid readings of the sentence?


In case it isn't obvious, I'm aware of both meanings being valid for just. But does one take precedence over the other here, and if so, what governs this?

An example in context (given by @JamesWebster):

"What have you eaten?"

"I've just eaten a burrito"


3 Answers 3


Context, dear boy. What is the context?

The "only" meaning can hold if the context is (among others):

  • what were you doing when you were supposed to do something else
  • what [bad] things you just did
  • what do we do

For example:

"I just said that he was a failure, not that he was a [insert curse word]."
"You just need to keep up the good work."

The "recently" meaning can hold if the context is what happened in a recent timeframe:

"We just lost the football game!"
"They just stole my car!"

  • "I've only eaten just a burrito." is not a valid English sentence. Are you sure "He just bought one chocolate bar" cannot mean "He only bought one chocolate bar"?
    – Some_Guy
    Oct 19, 2015 at 1:32
  • Rewriting... I was rushing, so I didn't think hard enough. Oct 19, 2015 at 1:36
  • Is the first line to be read in the style of Sherlock Holmes? Oct 19, 2015 at 18:25
  • Probably unintentional? Oct 19, 2015 at 18:26
  • The edited answer here seems to make even less sense to me than the first. I can't at all follow what you're trying to say in relation to my question.
    – Some_Guy
    Oct 19, 2015 at 21:28

As the other answer mentions, it depends on context.

Would you like a sandwich?
No thanks. I've just eaten a burrito.

Here, I would assume that you had recently eaten a burrito.

Would you like a sandwich?
Yes please. I've just eaten a burrito.

Here, I would assume that are still hungry because you haven't eaten enough. This however, still seems a little off. I'd use "only" in this case anyway.

What have you eaten? I've just eaten a burrito

Here I can't tell. This is ambiguous. Either you are telling me that you have recently eaten a burrito, or you have only eaten a burrito. Without asking more information I think I would guess that you recently ate.

Of course, if I then offer you food, you'll probably decline and any confusion will be cleared up.

  • What's worse, "I've only eaten a burrito" carries exactly the same ambiguity.
    – SF.
    Oct 20, 2015 at 12:42
  • @SF. I disagree. I would ever use "I've only eaten.." To mean recently. Do you perhaps mean "I've only just eaten..." Oct 20, 2015 at 12:47
  • "I'd only eaten my lunch when the alarm rang", and "I'm not breaking my diet! I've only eaten one cookie!"
    – SF.
    Oct 20, 2015 at 13:02
  • 2
    You first example doesn't make sense to me (to mean recently). I interpret that to mean e.g. "I had only eaten my lunch, (but not had time to have a cup of coffee), when the alarm rang" Oct 20, 2015 at 13:05
  • Yes, or didn't get to do anything else, e.g. I was planning to relax after the lunch. I guess the time shortage and 'fulfillment shortage' may become synonymous in certain contexts.
    – SF.
    Oct 20, 2015 at 13:13

I've just eaten a burrito.

means that I recently ate a burrito whereas,

I've eaten just a burrito.

means that I've eaten only a burrito, and nothing else.

  • 1
    -1 "I've just eaten a burrito! I didn't eat that giant sandwich!" Jan 21, 2016 at 12:40

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