Grammar Info

N4 Lesson 8: 14/18


There's only, Nothing but


Noun + しか + Verb[ない]


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About しか~ない

The adverbial particle しか is often compared to だけ, in that it also expresses 'only'. However, unlike だけ, しか can only be used in negative statements. Due to this, しか~ない is regularly translated as 'there's only (A)', or 'there's nothing but (A)'. しか~ない may be used to express numbers, or nouns. In this lesson we will examine nouns.
Like しか~ない, the construction used for expressing numbers, when used before a noun, this expression will mean that nothing apart from that one 'thing' exists. Any verb may be used after しか, but it must be in its ない (or ありません) form.
  • 犯人(はんにん)まだ3(にん)しか(つか)まっていない
    Only 3 of the criminals have been caught so far.
  • この(みせ)牛丼(ぎゅうどん)しか()ていない
    This store only has gyudon.
  • ()()一匹(いっぴき)しか()ない(かな)くなる
    I get sad when I go fishing and only catch one fish.
when しかない directly follows a verb, the translation is a little bit different, and means that 'nothing apart from (A) can be done'. This is a separate grammar point that we will study a bit later.
  • 明日(あした)から(あめ)()から今日(きょう)()しかない
    Since it will start raining tomorrow, we have no choice but to go today.



  • (とお)ので(くるま)()ことしかできない

    Because it is far away, you can only go by car.

    Since Verb→Noun + しかない implies inability, using の as a nominalizer cannot work here.

  • はいいいえしか()ない(ひと)(はな)しにくい

    It is difficult to talk to people who only respond with 'yes' and 'no'.

  • すみません午後(ごご)しか()いてないみたいです

    I am sorry, but it looks like there is only space open in the afternoon.

  • 冷蔵庫(れいぞうこ)牛乳(ぎゅうにゅう)しか(のこ)っていない

    There is nothing but milk in the fridge.

  • 手袋(てぶくろ)一枚(いちまい)しか()つけられない

    I can only find one glove.

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しか~ない – Grammar Discussion

Most Recent Replies (11 in total)

  • Daru


    Because the clause does not affect you actually living there or not, but it does affect the decision of doing so. And since it’s a yes-or-no decision, it can only be positive or negative, not declaring a continuous state.

    Hope this helps!

  • CrisH


    Right, I see! Thanks

  • NearlyRemy


    I’m a little confused about the comment added to the translation of this sentence:


    Because it is far away, you can only go by car.
    [Since Verb→Noun + しかない implies inability, using の as a nominalizer cannot work here]

    I’m not sure how の acts differently here, it’s probably a misunderstanding on my part regarding the difference between the two, but at my current level of understanding I translate both options as “you can only go by car”

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