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I'm only telling you just what I heard from him.

I'm wondering if it is possible to switch the places of "just" and "only".

I'm just telling you only what I heard from him.

Do they have different meanings?

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  • It would be helpful if you consider what the adverb (only) modifies (in context) to understand its effect. The first is only "telling you". The second is *only "what I heard from him". However, in the second example only could also be read as "you" only, in which the meaning would be the same as the first example.
    – user3169
    Nov 3, 2015 at 17:36

2 Answers 2

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The "objective" meaning is the same (although the first contains ambiguity which could be read the way Sotondolphin mentions). The difference is in emphasis on why the extra information is not being told.

Oh, and the "just" in the first adds immediacy. Let's drop it from the explanation for clarity.

I'm only telling you what I heard from him.

I'm not adding any extra information, anything I might know on the subject from other sources - I'm withholding extra information. I'm not giving you any extra clues or my opinions. You are meant to draw your own conclusions, solve it all by yourself etc - the extra information might be valuable, but for some specific reason I believe you shouldn't obtain it from me.

I'm just telling you what I heard from him.

I'm reporting his message faithfully, without alterations. If I added or changed anything, it would falsify the message. I don't alter the message, because it's more valuable in its pure form than if I augmented or changed it in any way.

The extra just in the first sentence only marks the information as recent: it's been minutes, or at most hours since I heard what I'm telling you (and possibly I'm withholding whatever he had said earlier).

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I'm only telling you what I just heard from him.

Which means you won't tell anybody else what you heard from him.

I'm just telling you what I heard from him.

This means that you may hear something from many other people, but you only tell the one you heard from "HIM"

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  • You left only out of the second example.
    – user3169
    Nov 3, 2015 at 17:37

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