Expressing "only if" with "zhiyou"
只有 (zhǐyǒu) means "only if," and is used with 才 (cái) to emphasize that only one course of action will bring about the desired outcome.
Full Pattern with 只有 and 才
只有 + Essential Condition + 才 (能) + Desired Outcome
Note that 才 is often followed by 能, but not always. This pattern is usually used for hypothetical situations, and is used what is in logic called a "necessary and sufficient condition," meaning "if and only if...."
- 只有 努力 才 能 做 好 工作。Only if you work hard is it possible to do a good job.
- 只有 多 吃饭 才 能 长高。Only if you eat more will you be able to grow tall.
- 只有 多 说，你的 中文 才 会 提高。Only if you speak more will your Chinese improve.
- 只有 大家 一起 做 才 能 成功。Only if everyone works together can we succeed.
- 只有 写 完 你的 作业 才 能 看 电视。Only if you finish your homework can you watch TV.
- 只有 妈妈 在 我们 才 能 出去 玩。 Only if Mom is here can we go out and play.
- 只有 每天 跑步，你的 身体 才 会 健康。Only if you go running every day can you have a healthy body.
- 只有 老板 同意 这个 建议，我们 才 能 做。We can only do this if the boss agrees with the suggestion.
- 只有 你 吃 过 了，你 才 能 说 好 不 好吃。You can only tell if it's good or not if you have eaten it before.
- 只有 学习 了 拼音，你 才 能 更 好 地 学 汉字。Only if you have learned pinyin can you learn Chinese characters better.
Note that for each of these examples, events have not already occurred. If they have, consider using the "only after" 才 pattern which doesn't use 只有.
Short Form with 才 Only
This is one of the simpler 才 patterns, providing a way to emphasize that it's THIS one (not THAT one). There's no "only if" here, but the 只有 is still implied in Chinese (meaning "it is only"). While this pattern has many uses, one of the most common (and most childish) is as a not-so-witty comeback, in the form of, "no, YOU are!"
Noun + 才 + Verb Phrase⋯⋯
- 你 才 是 笨蛋 ！YOU're the idiot!
- 在 某些 西方 国家 里 ， 白人 才 是 真正 的 西方人 。 我 不 同意 。 In some western countries, it's only white people that are the "real" westerners. I don't agree.
Sources and further reading
- HSK Standard Course 3 (pp. 172) Anything Goes (无所不谈) →buy
- New Practical Chinese Reader 4 (新实用汉语课本4) (pp. 42) Anything Goes (无所不谈) →buy
- 卓越汉语－公司实战篇 (pp. 113) 卓越汉语－公司实战篇 →buy
- 40 Lessons for Basic Chinese Course (基础汉语40课下册） (pp. 516) [ →buy]
- Yale Chinese Usage Dictionary 只 and 只有
- Wikipedia: Necessity and sufficiency