I'm confused how to order ne..que in the present tense in 2 following cases:
I only eat sweets
I eat sweets only
In your first example it would be -
Je ne mange que des bonbons
Je mange seulement des bonbons
= I only eat sweets (nothing else)
In your second example it would be -
Je ne suis allé qu'au cinéma
Je suis allé seulement au cinéma
= I only went to the cinema (not any where else)
Another example restricting a noun :
Je n'ai que cinquante centimes dans mon porte-monnaie
J'ai seulement cinquante centimes dans mon porte-monnaie
= I only have 50 centimes in my purse
Note the difference when ne ... que restricts the action of the verb
Je n'ai fait que lui demander son avis = I only asked for his advice
Je n'ai qu'à lui parler = I only have to speak to him
Hope this clarifies matters a bit.
I don't really see any difference in meaning between the two English sentences "I only eat sweets" and "I eat sweets only". The first sentence doesn't mean that you are telling me that you eat sweats instead of, say, snorting them. And the second one stresses the fact that you have a lopsided diet even more. Therefore, I would translate them like this:
I only eat sweets. -- Je ne mange que des sucreries.I eat sweets only. -- Je mange seulement des sucreries.
What thoughts/ideas are you trying to express with the sentences? In translation, you are trying to transfer the meaning from language to language, not specifically the words.
The 2 English sentences 'should' have different meaning, if both the writer/speaker and the reader/listener know and are using the same 'grammar rules' for positioning 'only'. (eg only 'should' be followed closely by the thing being restricted)
The difficulty with translating the English sentences above is the variable positioning of 'only' as used in English (see link at end for some discussion), and the ambiguity that can arise, especially without context.
As Chris demonstrates, the word order in French with the restrictive «ne . . que» is itself restricted - Using restrictive ne … que to express only with simple tenses (French Negations) -, so if you can't express the desired thought within that construct, you need to use another.
Less ambiguity comes at the cost of reduced flexibility - if you can't convey the meaning with «ne . . que» or «seulement» properly used, an alternative (usually expanded) translation is needed.
Similar to the lesson:
-> Here the restriction is on the destination, meaning I only went THERE, only this place.
So, I would like to apply for présent indicative:
- I only eat sweets (I don't do anything else)
- I eat sweets only (I eat nothing else)
But without auxiliary verb, it's difficult to put ne..que in the proper orders.
I guess even in English the sentence "I only eat sweets" is ambiguous. You would probably say, "I do nothing but eat sweets" to make it clear. Similarly, in French: Je ne fais rien d'autre que de manger des sucreries.
It's interesting to list the possibilities of how to interpret this sentence:
I only eat sweets (and never vegetables).I only eat sweets (I never drink them).I only eat sweets (all day long and never do anything else).
I agree with Chris above. I fail to see the difference in the two sentences. And, after reading the explanations, I still fail to see the difference.
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