Transparent Inglês

How To Use The Word “Just” In English Posted by on Feb 6, 2015 in Intermediário

“I know God will not give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish He didn’t trust me so much.” – Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Just has many uses in English. Many Brazilians confuse the words just and only. But only just is used as a kind of mitigator.

A mitigator acts as a kind of “buffer” or social “lubricant” in order to make the force of what you’re saying seem softer.

Consider these examples:

– Just a second.
– I just want to say a few words.
– I just think it’s wrong.
– If I could just interrupt here…

When you say único in Portuguese, the translation is usually only (though there are other translations), and never just:

Ele é filho único. – He’s an only child.
Esse é o único motivo. – That’s the only reason.
Ele é único. – He’s the only one.

(Careful here: “Ele é único” is “He’s unique.”)

There is also the case in which just has a meaning similar to ‘exactly’.

That’s just what I need. = That’s exactly what I need.
Just the person I was looking for! = Exactly the person I was looking for!
But that’s just the problem! = That’s exactly the problem!

And in other instances just can be used to mean ‘simply’:

I just hate cold weather. = I simply hate cold weather.
I don’t know why… I just do. = I don’t know why… I simply do.
I just called to say “I love you”. – I simply called to say “I love you”.

… and so on.

In most cases, where you say apenas, só, and somente in Portuguese, you can use just and only interchangeably:

Apenas ontem ele estava dizendo isso.
Just yesterday he was saying that.
Only yesterday he was saying that.

Só duas pessoas compareceram.
Just two people showed up.
Only two people showed up.

Eu somente quero ter certeza.
I just want to be sure.
I only want to be sure.

Of course, it is always dangerous to talk about absolutes when it comes to translation (the expression só isso? is translated as “is that it?” for example), but the above should serve as some guidance and help.

Here’s a breakdown of the uses of just, especially as a mitigator.

Use 1 – Just meaning “simply” (similar to simplesmente in Portuguese). It’s usually used at the beginning of the sentence.

A: I don’t know if I should apply for the job. There’s so much competition.
B: Just go for it.

Use 2 – Just meaning “only” (similar to in Portuguese). It’s usually used at the beginning of the sentence.

A: Who’s coming to the party?
B: Just me.

Use 3 – Just meaning “exactly” (similar to justo in Portuguese). It’s usually used after the subject.

A: Am I late?
B: No, you’re just in time.

Use 4 – Just to mitigate the force of a question or request (similar to in Portuguese). It’s usually used before the main verb.

Let me just ask you something…

Use 5 – Just to politely announce intentions. It’s usually used after subject pronouns and auxiliary verb.

I’m just going to use your bathroom.

This is it for today. See you next time?

Post gentilmente cedido pelo autor Ron Martinez, retirado do livro “Como Dizer Tudo Em Inglês Avançado”. Compre na Livraria Saraiva.

Keep learning Inglês with us!

Build vocabulary, practice pronunciation, and more with Transparent Language Online. Available anytime, anywhere, on any device.

Try it Free Find it at your Library
Share this:
Pin it

About the Author: Adir

English / Spanish teacher and translator for over 20 years. I have been blogging since 2007 and I am also a professional singer in my spare time.


  1. Harumi:

    Olá! =)
    No exemplo “Ele é único. – He’s the only one”, o correto não seria “Ele é O único”?

  2. Karlos:

    I liked. The examples are good.