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"only," a very tricky translation


Hi @YuQinCai, @Fiona and the ChinesePod team, my question is this:

Hello, name is Forrest McSweeney. I was wondering if you guys ever did a dedicated qingwen on “only.” I have studied Chinese for seven years now and communicating the various subtle varieties of “only x/y/z” in Chinese requires a lot of tricky manipulation of meaning if you want to do the same thing in Chinese.


It is only through studying two hours a day can one learn Chinese.

This sentence is not as easy as it looks to translate. There are many directions one can go, all because of “only through.” 除非 and 只有 both in theory have a place here. So does 才. There is also “only when,” and “am only able to,” “I am the only one who,” “it is only that one which,” “only I/it is” The list is massive. I was wondering if you guys are thinking about tackling this directly, or if you already have.

Thank you