English Idiomatic Expression: “It’s only when you… that…”

By Robby

If you are new here please read this first.

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Here’s another daily English expression video, and this time around I’m looking at the following sentence: “It’s only when you… that…”

Please note that this is not your typical English idiomatic expression, and I strongly doubt you’ll find it in any English phrase lists. Nonetheless, it’s important to learn such and similar sentences because they will help you greatly to make your point ❗

Once you’ve memorized this sentence structure – “It’s only when you… that…”, you can apply it on countless different conversations!

Whenever you have to emphasize something and further describe the fact you’re talking about – this sentence is perfect for that purpose.

And of course – if you want to hear some examples of this phrase in use, please watch the video above!

See you soon again,

Robby 😉

English Idiomatic Expressions

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  • Jovanny Polezh

    Yeaaah, now I see a message from you, Robby!

  • No problem!

    By the way – I’ve been responding to your e-mails, maybe you’re not getting my responses because they’re getting marked as spam or something? Just check your spam folder and/or Updates tab in your Gmail.



  • Jovanny Polezh

    Actually, I’m really thankful to you for this vital and excessive reply!) It is exactly what I wanted to hear!
    Have an awesome evening, Robby!! 🙂


  • Hi Jovanny,

    As a matter of fact, those sentences sound much better with “that” in them!

    “It’s only when you get older that you realize…” sounds way better than “It’s only when you get older you realize…”. Actually, you CAN say it both ways and the second option wouldn’t be super-wrong or anything, but still the sentence with “that” in it sounds way better.

    As for the second sentence – “it’s only when you haven’t got much money that you realize” – not only CAN you say that but you SHOULD say that!

    I know, this particular construct may sound a bit weird at first, but it’s how native English speakers speak!

    Another example: “It was in the high school that I finally met the love of my life”. You see, at first it may beg the question: “why should I use “that” if I’m talking about a specific period of time? Shouldn’t I be saying “It was in the high school WHEN…”? And once again the answer is – you can say it BOTH ways, but “that” would sound better to me just because natives say it that way.

    Hope this helps a bit,



  • Jovanny Polezh

    Dear Robby, hi there!

    I’ve got another question for you. The reason is that this phrase is jarring me a little. It’s all about ‘that’ in a role of conjunction.

    Let’s take for instance your examples… in the begging of the video you actually used “that”… and smth crossed my mind that moment… then in the final example you didn’t use ‘that’, in fact, and it sounded better to me.

    Till now you’ve said heck of times not to analyse, but I can’t omit this particular case in that simple manner. Shame on me 😀

    But anyway, let’s take for instance’s sake your the very first example sentence:
    “It’s only when you get older that you realise the true values of life.”
    isn’t it better to go without THAT:
    “It’s only when you get older you realise the true values of life.” ?

    If you can give me some simple examples using ‘that’ in this manner I would be grateful.

    Anyway. to make it crystal clear I also want to add a part of your final example:
    “It’s only when you haven’t got much money left you realise how good it was to have loads of money…”

    Can I put “THAT” before “you realise”?? Can I say:
    “It’s only when you haven’t got much money left THAT you realise how good it was to have loads of money”????

    Thank you beforehand, anyway!! Cheers!
    PS: sorry for this amount of text 😀

  • Yes, you’re 100% correct! Btw – I didn’t reply because you didn’t ask any questions in your comment, you merely commented on the article! 😉

  • rahul

    Robby waiting for your reply

  • rahul

    I think the above structure can be applied to sentences having other words. For instance..It is only by solving problems, that you remember the formulas.

    It is only through a thorough study of properties at high temperature, that one will be able to predict its suitability in blast furnace

  • You’re spot-on with your sample sentence!

    Speaking of “quite” and “pretty” – in conversational English phrases like “You did quite well” and “You did pretty well” they mean pretty much the same thing.

  • I’m sure it will! Thanks for the comment Sergei!

  • daisy

    look i got it ,,ex:it’s only when you talk aloud that i start to be nervous.

    right ?

    i’ve a question what is the difference between “quite”,”pretty” ?

  • Sergei

    Great expression Robby, I am sure it will come in handy in my daily conversations at work.