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Learn English: not “just” another word

In this lesson I explain many of the contemporary uses of the English word, “just”. Please see below for notes and examples.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=md196g8iZek

 

I think the oldest meaning of “just” is as a synonym for “right” and “fair”.

EXAMPLE

“That is a just punishment.” (That is a fair punishment.)

Consider the word “justice”.

 

In modern English, “just” has taken on a variety of other, very common uses:

 

Using “just” in tenses (add sense of immediacy or urgency)

“I’m doing it.” (Now.)

“I’m just doing it.” (Right now.)

“I’ll do it.”

“I’ll just do it.” (Very soon / right now.)

“I’m about to do it.” (Very soon / right now.)

“I’m just about to do it.” (Even sooner.)

“I’ve done it.”

“I’ve just done it.” (Right now / just now.)

“I had just done it.” (Right before / just before a certain point in the past.)

 

“Just” means “only”

“He acts mature, but he’s just 17.”

“I just did it once.”

“Not just another word.” (Not a normal word.)

And it is used to begin sentences:

Just wanted to say…”

“Do you have anything to add?” “Just that…”

And even to ask for something (sounds polite):

“What would you like?” “Just a cup of tea, please.”

 

“Just” means something similar to “only”, but a bit different…

“Can I just ask?”

“I just can’t help feeling…”

“I just think that…”

“I just wish they could have…”

“Let’s just finish our dinners, ok?”

“You can’t just do that!”

“Shall I just do it?”

This meaning is impossible to explain fully as it is unique and (I think) quite contemporary. I suggest that you read dialogue and listen to English people speaking to notice how “just” is used in order to properly understand its modern usage.

 

“Just” means “really” or “absolutely”

“His performance was just terrible in that match.”

“The restaurant we went to was just fantastic.”

“I just love it.” (I really love it.)

“How was it?” “Just amazing!”

“I really love her, she’s just perfect.”

 

“Just” means “exactly”

“He left just when I needed him most.”

“You got that just right.”

 

“Just” used as part of imperative

Just do it.”

Just give it to me.”

Just try your best.” (Sounds encouraging.)

 

Using “just” by itself

“Have I done enough?” “Just.” (Yes, but only just.)

“Did he pass the exam?” “Just.” (Only just.)

 

Common expressions with “just”

Just a moment.”

Just a minute.”

Just a second.”

All the above mean, “Wait.”

Just a (little) bit,” can mean either, “a bit” or, “a lot”. (It can mean “a lot” when we are sarcastic.)

“Do you like her?” “Just a bit.” The meaning depends on the tone of voice.

Just about.”

“She did just about enough to pass the exam.”

“Did she pass the exam?” “Just about.”

Just now.” (In the very recent past e.g. seconds or minutes ago.)

“I saw him just now.”

“…just as good as…” (Comparing something equal in a positive way.)

“You can do it, you’re just as good as I am.”

“…just as bad as…” (Comparing something equal in a negative way.)

“You won’t be able to do it either, you’re just as bad as me.”

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  1. Matti from Finland
    25/10/2012 at 7:01 PM

    I just realized how many different ways I can use the word just. Thanks Chris.

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