You already know how to use "ne ... que" to express 'only' in negative sentences with simple tenses. Find out how to do the same with compound tenses in French.
How to use "ne ... que" with compound tenses in French
Look at these examples:
Notice that whereas with ne ... pas (not), pas could only be placed after the auxiliary verb (être or avoir) in compound tenses. See Ne ... pas = Not - with compound tenses (French Negations).
The restrictive que in ne ... que can be placed either after the auxiliary verb, or in front of the word it's restricting. You should place que in front of the word you restrict.
Note that ne is always placed in front of the auxiliary verb, BUT que can never be in front of the auxiliary verb.
The tricky part here is that in English you place the restrictive only before the verb most of the time, even when the restriction applies to other elements of the sentence, and use intonation to insist on this element:
I only WENT to the cinema. vs I only went to the CINEMA.
In French we use the position of the restrictive que as an indicator of which element is being restricted:
NOTE: You can also use seulement which means only in French, though it is not as elegant.
See also the simple tenses cases Using restrictive ne … que to express only with simple tenses (French Negations)
Want to make sure your French sounds confident? We’ll map your knowledge and give you free lessons to focus on your gaps and mistakes. Start your Braimap today »