Grammar Info

N3 Lesson 6: 13/24


To emphasize '~only', Nothing but

Can express pity


Noun + だけしか + ない


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About だけしか

だけしか is a combination of two adverbial particles, だけ 'only', and しか 'nothing but'. This structure primarily follows nouns, before part (B) of the sentence will have a corresponding ない based word.
  • (かれ)野菜(やさい)だけしか()べられません
    He can only eat vegetables.
  • 土曜日(どようび)だけしか()いてる()がないから出来(でき)たら土曜日(どようび)がいい。
    I have no days except for Saturdays that are free, so if possible, it would be better if it was a Saturday.
  • この(なか)はタケシだけしか下手(へた)じゃない。(ほか)みんな結構(けっこう)うまい。
    In this group, Takeshi is the only one that isn't good. Everyone else is considerably skilled.
  • (なん)このコップだけしか500(えん)ではない
    Why is this cup the only one that is 500yen?
Despite all of these possibilities, it should be noted that だけしか~ない is an expression that appears with negative verbs, far more than any of the other combinations.
  • (わたし)日本語(にほんご)だけしか(はな)せないです
    I can only speak Japanese.
Fun Fact
だけしか may appear as though it is saying 'only' twice, but each particle has its own specific nuance. These nuances are as follows:
だけ - Removes one thing (from within a group), and presents it as the 'only' thing that fits a certain criteria.
しか - Highlights something that exists by itself as not having any alternatives.
Due to this, each meaning compounds together, with だけ saying 'just this', while しか adds 'and only this!'. Reversing the order and putting しか before だけ would not work, as the sequence of selection needs to be logical.
  • 日曜日(にちようび)しかだけ(やす)()ない
    I can take only breaks on Sunday. (Unnatural Japanese)
  • 日曜日(にちようび)だけしか(やす)()ない
    I can only take breaks on Sunday. (Natural Japanese)




    At this time of day, there is only one doctor present.


    Chairs are the only things here.


    I only have one cousin.


    I can only speak Japanese.


    I only have 1000 yen in cash.

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だけしか – Grammar Discussion

Most Recent Replies (10 in total)

  • meagstudies


    I came to this thread wondering the same thing as everyone else in this thread re: negative vs positive interpretations. I would have thought the sentences would be “only Takeshi is good at” or “only Saturdays are busy” or “the only one that is 500yen.”

  • paprikayes


    I also came to this discussion thread hoping to find some insight into how the example sentences seem to showcase contradictory meanings. Did anyone here ever come to a conclusion about how to pick up on that nuance? Is it just one of those things that requires greater context to gauge the meaning?

  • nekoyama


    The example sentence that was being discussed above has been changed to use 下手 instead of 上手, so the conclusion appears to be that that particular contradiction was a mistake in the example sentence.

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