Words that Limit

In a previous blog, we studied words that intensify.  For example, we learned that we can say it’s extremely sunny today.  It’s really hot out.  In fact, it’s so hot that I feel like a melting popsicle.  These words emphasize that there is a lot of something—in this case “heat.”

Conversely, we can use other words to emphasize how little or few of something exists.  These words limit.

For example, if we are speaking of a single thing, we can say:

Lonely ManThere was just one person on the beach.

This man was the only person there.

Only he chose to go to the ocean today.  Just he sat by the water.

He alone stared at the solitary sailboat on the horizon.

If we have more than one, but not many more, we can say:

No passengersThere are hardly any people on this train.

Barely anyone is riding.

There are almost no passengers.

Why not?  Is it scarcely dawn?


Words from within each group have the same meaning.

Only one = just one = a solitary one                hardly any = barely any = almost no

I have just one question.                                 We have hardly any time.

I have only one question.                                We have barely any time.

I have a solitary question.                              We have almost no time


The words above are used to limit nouns.  We can also limit verbs.

At the party, my roommate just drank.  He only stood by the bar.  He didn’t dance, eat, or speak with people.  I think it’s because he’s extremely shy.  He hardly speaks to anyone.  He barely talks, even to his closest friends.  He almost never leaves his room.  Poor guy!

Practice:  What can you say about this one mountain goat?

Mt. Goat Alone

(Possible answers below)





There is only one goat on the mountain.  I see just one animal, a solitary male.  Barely any people come to his mountains.  He hardly ever meets humans and hardly notices them. He has scarcely any fear of them.

You may also find these blog posts helpful:

Lack: A Power Word

English Help: Adverbs that Intensify