It’s just so difficult! How to use the word ‘just’

Audtakorn Sutarmjam/EyeEm/GettyImages

by Liz Walter

Just is a really annoying word for learners of English! It’s very common and we use it in lots of different situations, often with quite different meanings. In this post, I will try to explain some of the most common ways in which we use it – not only on its own, but as a part of some common phrases.

We often use just to talk about when something happens. It can mean ‘a very short time ago’ or ‘very recently’:

I’ve just spoken to Tom. (UK)/I just spoke to Tom. (US)

They had just arrived in London.

If we want to be more emphatic, we can say only just:

Don’t get mud on the floor – I’ve only just cleaned it. (UK)/I only just cleaned it. (US)

Rather confusingly, just can also be used with present tenses to mean ‘now’ or ‘in a very short time’:

I’ll do it in a minute. I’m just having a cup of tea.

We’ll be a bit late – we’re just leaving the house.

If we say we are just about to do something, we mean that we are going to do it almost immediately:

I think Maria’s just about to leave.

The rainy season was just about to start.

And if we say that something happens just as another thing happens, we mean that they happen at the same time:

They arrived just as we were leaving.

A completely different, but also extremely common, meaning of just is ‘only’:

I thought the book was about Europe but it was just about France.

We often use this just to show that something isn’t as important, large, difficult, etc. as someone might think it is:

You just need to work a bit harder.

I don’t live here – I’m just a tourist.

They were just trying to have some fun.

We often use just as with an adjective when we are comparing two things, to say that they have the same amount of a quality. Remember that you need to say just as …. as if the adjective is followed by a noun or noun phrase:

Mick can be rude, but you’re just as bad.

Her new book is just as good as her last one.

Finally, just can be used as a general emphasizing word:

I just don’t believe it!

There are certainly other subtle uses of just, but I hope this post has helped you to understand and use the main ones.

40 thoughts on “It’s just so difficult! How to use the word ‘just’

    1. Houssam Bz

      This has definitely helped me , thanks alot Liz. I was just wondering if u can help me at all with what are the use/s of the word ” guess ” as a verb when it’s used in this way or context ( especially with the first singular ” I” ) : ” I guess ( that ) … ” or ” we should or can do sth, I guess. ”

  1. “Just” can be used in expressions, such as “Just my luck!” said when something bad happens to you, particularly if this happens frequently, also expressing annoyance at the fact that something particularly unfortunate has happened to you.

    You can also say: “Just do what I say”, meaning don’t do anything else, except what I tell you to do.

  2. Marisela

    I’ve just read this post and I’ve found it just as useful as the previous ones.

    When my friend called me I told her: “I’m just doing the washing-up. Would you mind calling back later?”

    You’ve just arrived, at last !!! I’d been waiting for you for about 25 minutes, I was just about to go.

    It started raining just as I was leaving.

    My neighbour bought a new car, but the new one is just as fast and big.

    To master your English you can’t just read, you need do more than that.

    I found another fun way to use ‘just’. it’s used when we imagine something. For example:

    I can just see her face if I told her the truth.

    Thanks for the post, it was just amazing.

  3. Anna Denisova

    A great article. However, the most annoying word for me is ‘indeed’. I don’t understand its practical function sometimes. 🙂 Is there any article here about it 😉

    1. Adrien Peu

      Words like “indeed” “absolutely”, “exactly” and “precisely” are often used in English to add emphasis to “yes”. They may follow the “yes”, or they may replace it, in which case consider the word an emphatic yes.

  4. Maryem Salama

    Nine uses of JUST and still there are more! How amazing that is. It is just as outstanding as your previous posts and the coming ones either. Liz, thank you

    1. Aswathi

      Hey Liz, I just read your post and I am just so happy. Just by reading these posts regularly one can improve their English language.

  5. Alex

    Hi, Liz!
    I’d like to add use just with imperative form of verb:
    “Just take my hand it’s paradise”(C) Phoebe Cates

  6. Hilary Harrison

    JUST is just about my favourite word. I just love using it when I’m writing my journal and just have to include it. And my favourite person is Justin Case!

  7. I didn’t finish reading it but I just stopped reading it to look at the comments.
    And it is a very helpful artical! thanks for plastics it, Liz! ;w;

  8. Matthew Lo

    A great article. I want to know the usage of “There you go.”
    Sometimes it confuses me. 🙂 Is there any article here about it? 😉

    1. Liz Walter

      The main uses that come to my mind are a) when you give someone something b) as a tag at the end of a sentence or a story, that means something like ‘well, that’s the way things are’: ‘It’s a difficult situation, but there you go.’ and c) as a tag that shows that you were right about something: ‘There you go! I told you she’d come back soon!’

  9. Randy Campbell

    Great article, but you forgot to mention just in the form of an adjective. For example:

    They made sacrifices for a just cause.

    Or

    Crying was a just reaction to hearing the bad news.

  10. Houssam Bz

    This has definitely helped me , thanks alot Liz. I was just wondering if u can help me at all with what are the use/s of the word ” guess ” as a verb when it’s used in this way or context ( especially with the first singular ” I” ) : ” I guess ( that ) … ” or ” we should or can do sth, I guess. “

Leave a Reply to selen Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.