しか

しか Japanese Grammar Lesson

Grammar Type: Particle

Essential Meaning: Nothing but / Nobody but / Only

Construction: 

  • Noun + しか
    • E.g. 先生せんせいしか [Nobody but the teacher]
  • Noun + Optional Particle + しか
    • E.g. with : 先生せんせい(へ)しか [To nobody but the teacher]
    • E.g. with に (Indirect Object): 先生せんせい(に)しか [With / From / To nobody but the teacher]
    • E.g. with に (Time): 日曜日にちようびにしか [On no day but Sunday]
    • E.g. with に (Direction): 東京とうきょう(に)しか [To no place but Tokyo]
  • Quantifier + しか
    • E.g. すこししか [Only a little]

Notes:

  • Xしか means “Nothing but X” or “Only X“. It emphasizes the absence or lack of of things other than X. Due to this emphasis on an absence or lack of something, しか ALWAYS occurs with negative predicates.
  • しか is similar to だけ. The differences are:
    • (1) だけ describes the situation in a a neutral fashion (i.e. it doesn’t particularly emphasize either the positive or the negative aspect of the sentence). しか, on the other hand, clearly emphasizes the negative aspect.
    • (2) だけ can occur with positive or negative predicates, while しか can only occur with negative predicates.
      • E.g. ボブだけた。[Only Bob came.]
      • E.g. *ボブしかた。[Nobody but Bob came.] しか cannot be used with a positive predicate.
      • E.g. ボブしかなかった。[Nobody but Bob came.]
      • E.g. ボブだけなかった。[Only Bob didn’t come.]
    • (3) The verb かかる [To take time] can co-occur with しか but not with だけ.
      • E.g. わたしいえから学校がっこうまではくるまで5ふんしかかからない。[From my house to the university takes only 5 minutes by car.]
      • E.g. *わたしいえから学校がっこうまではくるまで5ふんだけかかる。[From my house to the university takes only 5 minutes by car.] だけ cannot co-occur with かかる.
  • ばかり is another similar word to しか. The difference are:
    • (1) ばかり emphasizes the positive aspect (i.e. the proposition applies to ONLY X), while しか emphasizes the negative aspect (i.e. the situation applies to all BUT X).
      • E.g. 女子じょししかなかった。[Nobody but girls came (i.e. All but girls didn’t come).]
      • E.g. 女子じょしばかりた。[Only girls came.]
    • (2) ばかり often has the implication that something is done or exists to a much greater extent than the speaker expects or thinks is appropriate. しか does not have this implication.
      • E.g. ジムはビールばかりんだ。[Jim drank ONLY beer (and a whole lot of it).] There is an implication that Jim drank too much beer.
      • E.g. ジムはビールしかまなかった。[Jim drank nothing but beer.]
      • E.g. ジムはビールだけんだ。[Jim drank only beer.]
    • (3) ばかり cannot be used if X is a single entity. しか can.
      • E.g. おんなばかり[Only girls came.] This is acceptable because there is a plurality of girls.
      • E.g. *メアリーばかりた。[Only Mary came.] This is unacceptable because Mary is a single entity, and ばかり cannot be used for single entities.
      • E.g. おんなしかなかった。[Only girls came.] しか can be used regardless of number.
      • E.g. メアリーしかなかった。[Only Mary didn’t come.] しか can be used regardless of number.
    • (4) ばかり cannot be used with negative predicates.
      • E.g. *子供達こどもたちばかりこなかった。[Only children didn’t come.]

Example Sentences:

戸田とださんしかタバコをわない。[Nobody but Toda-san smokes tobacco.]

わたし日本語にほんごしからない。[I know nothing but Japanese.]

それは江口えぐちさんにしかはなしていない。[I haven’t told that to anyone but Eguchi-san.]

わたしはごはんをいっぱいしかべなかった。[I ate nothing but one bowl of rice.]

パーティーには学生がくせいしかなかった。[Only students came to the party.]

田村たむらさんはサラダしかべなかった。[Tamura-san ate nothing but salad.]

わたし日曜日にちようびしかられません。[I can come on no day but Sunday.]

このほんはこの図書館としょかんしかありません。[This book is at no library but this one.]

そこはくるまでしかけない。[You can go there no other way than by car.]

わたし山田やまださんとしかはなしをしない。[I talk only to Yamada-san.]

この学校がっこう学生がくせい百人ひゃくにんしかいない。[This school has only a hundred students.]

WILD Examples:

Listen to this line from 2:12: わらおうわらおうわらえなくても、わらしかないでしょう、わらいましょう [Let’s laugh, let’s laugh, even if it’s not funny. Nothing but laughs, let’s laugh!]
Listen to this line at 1:39: おどろう、あのやりかたで、それしかない、われない [Let’s dance just like that. Aside from that, there is no way to change it]

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