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I was wondering, which one is preferred or more natural?

Can they also be used interchangeably?


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They are quite interchangeable and I don't think there is a real rule to use one instead of an other. It really depends on what you've said before in order to not repeat several "que" in your text.

Il ne part que dans 3 jours= Il part seulement dans 3 jours. There is a notion of "we still have the time to ..."

Cette page n'est accessible qu'aux abonnés = Cette page est seulement accessible aux abonnés. There is an idea of restriction.

But in sentences with "ne fait que" we can't interchange "ne..que" and "seulement" without rewording the phrase.

La guerre ne fait que commencer -> La guerre commence seulement. But we really prefer the first version.

Il ne fait que m'embêter : we don't use seulement here. Young children often say "Il ne fait rien qu'à m'embêter" which is absolutly not French but the sense is clearer. There is a notion of powerlessness.


Be careful !
Sometimes "seulement" means "however" !! for example : "tu peux sortir ce soir, seulement tu devras être rentré avant minuit", here it introduces a condition....
In the other cases, "seulement" is always used in an affirmative sentence and "ne.. que" in a negative form !

That's an excellent point, and clearly there'd be "nowhere to go" for 'ne...que' in this case. For what it's worth, I still think "only" (as well as "but", "however") can work as a translation in English.

You're right Charlotte. I've forgotten to speak of that.

But I think we can use both "seulement" and "ne..que" in the negative.

e.g. Il ne faut pas seulement penser à l'argent and Il n'y a pas que l'argent dans la vie

you're right Erwan, I should add that when "seulement" is used in a negative sentence, it's in a additive form, not in a restrictive one : "il n'est pas seulement beau, il est aussi intelligent"

in your example : "il ne faut pas seulement penser à l'argent" seulement isn't used to exclude something but to add something else (even if it is just suggested) : il ne faut pas seulement penser à l'argent, understand you must think of frienship, love... too

Where does "uniquement" stand in this inquiry?  

Mostly you can use "seulement" or "ne...que" instead of "uniquement"

If "uniquement" means exclusively

e.g. : Il pense uniquement à sa famille -> Il ne pense qu'à sa famille/Il pense seulement à sa famille.

En vente uniquement par correspondance -> En vente que par correspondance/ En vente seulement par correspondance

If "uniquement" means only

e.g. : C'est uniquement pour te voir -> C'est seulement pour te voir/Ce n'est que pour te voir

I thought so.  Thanks for the reaffirmation.


I'm writing up for a French Oral exam (GCSE) which I have in about a week. One of my answers contains two restrictive negatives, but I'm not sure if I've used the right ones..can anyone help?

1. I only do sport at school -> Je pratique seulement du sport au collège? OR Je ne fais que du sport au collège?

2.  I only do sport for fun -> Je ne fais que du sport pour m’amuser? OR Je fais seulement du sport pour m'amuser?

I'd like to use seulement for one and ne..que for the other, if that's possible.

Merci à l'avance!

You can use both, but be very careful where you place seulement or ne...que in your sentence...

Je ne fais que du sport au collège means that,  at school, you're doing only sport (-> and nothing else). The correct form would be Je ne fais du sport qu'au collège. Same thing with Je fais seulement du sport au collège (and nothing else)  and Je fais du sport seulement au collège

Again with Je ne fais que du sport pour m'amuser, which means that, for fun, you do only sport and nothing else, and the correct sentence: Je ne fais du sport que pour m'amuser. And again, same with seulement: Je fais seulement du sport pour m'amuser or the right meaning Je fais du sport seulement pour m'amuser.

But yes, in both sentences you can use either seulement or ne...que, as you wish.

Thank you so much, that was really useful! (:


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