SOLO - only, alone, the only one?

Meanings of solo

Adjective - alone

Here it means "alone", "by yourself" or "lonely". It describes a noun, as it is an adjective, and this means that is going to agree with it in gender and number:

Ex:
Siempre veo a tu hermana sola - I always see your sister alone.

¡Has sido capaz de arreglarlo solo! - You have been able to fix it by yourself!

Me gusta pasar tiempo solas las dos - I like to spend time alone the two (of us -both females).

Te sientes solo - You feel alone/lonely.

Adverb -only

When solo is an adverb it gives information about a verb and it means "only". It never changes, never agrees with anything.

It usually goes right before the verb, like no, nunca, or ya or other adverbs (always, sometimes...).

Ex:

(Yo) solo quiero dormir una siesta -
I only want to sleep a nap.

Solo piensas en ti -
You only think about yourself.

Vamos a mover solo las cajas grandes/ Solo vamos a mover las cajas grandes -
We're only going to move the big boxes.

This means the same as solamente, it's just the short version of it. So I could have used solamente in any of those sentence as well, same location too.

Accent mark or not?

Up to 2010, the RAE (Real Academia Española) specified that if you use solo with the meaning of solamente (only, adverb) you had to put a tilde, accent mark, on it: sólo.

This created an extra difference,apart from the meaning, between these two meanings.

Now you don't have to do that, but you might still see it. Whether it's a text from before 2010 or it's one of the people who thinks we still should use the accent mark, it's around, and you're going to see it :)

The only ....

This is a very common mistake. We don't use solo in this case:

The only thing I want - La única cosa que quiero

I don't say La sola cosa, I use único/a/os/as.

Ex:

Las únicas casas que me gustan tienen un jardín - The only houses I like have a garden.

Somos los únicos que llegamos a tiempo - We're the only ones that arrive in time.

Esta cafetería es la única en la ciudad sin wifi - This cafeteria is the only one in the city without wifi.

Lo único que me importa /la única cosa que me importa - The only thing that matters to me.

Others

  • Un café solo - A coffee with no milk.

  • Un solo (in music or dance) - a piece of music sang, played, danced... by one only person.

Practice

Fill in the gaps with:
solo, sola, solos, solas, único, única, únicos, únicas.

  • Nosotros _______ comemos comida vegana

We only eat vegan food

  • La _________ comida que comemos es vegana

The only food we eat is vegan

  • Todos estamos ________

We are all alone

  • ______ bebo café por la mañana

I only drink coffee in the morning

  • El _______ vino que bebo es Albariño

The only wine I drink is Albariño

  • Tu madre está _____ en Navidad

Your mom is alone for Christmas

  • La _________ música que les gusta es el rap

The only music they like is rap

  • Ellos _______ escuchan música rap

They only listen to rap music

  • _______ soy una humana

I'm only a human

  • Estábamos _________ en el funeral

We were all (fem) alone at the funeral

solo/única/solos/solo/único/sola/única/solo/solo/solas

And that is it with solo! :)

Hope that helped!