だけしか - Grammar Discussion

English translation:
To emphasize ‘~only’
nothing but

Structure:
Noun + だけしか + ない

Explanation:
Compound particle made of “だけ” and “しか”.

View on Bunpro

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I’ve got a quick question about one of the example sentences.

私には従兄弟が一人だけしかいません。
I only have one cousin.

What is the に doing here beside 私?

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This is alternative construction, you can use either 私には従兄弟が一人だけしかいません and 私は従兄弟が一人だけしかいません.
Both mean the same thing.

It is exactly the same as in:
東京には外国人がたくさんいます。
東京は外国人がたくさんいます。
to make things easier by analogy, you can think of yourself as location of cousin.
Literally: I have only one cousin with me.

I hope it helps,
Cheers!

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Ah, it makes sense. Thank you!

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These example sentences under the explanation confused me:

  • 土曜日どようびだけしかいそがしくないから、出来できたら土曜日どようびがいい。

Only Saturdays aren’t busy, so if possible Saturday is preferable.

  • このなかはタケシだけしか上手じょうずではない。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.

  • なんでこのコップだけしか500えんではないの?

Why is this cup the only one that isn’t 500yen?

Am i just confused? Shouldn’t the translation be that only Saturdays are busy, and Takeshi is the only one who is good, and only this cup is 500 yen?

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For whatever it is worth, I agree. (Silver lining for me is that confusion over these sentences drove me to discover the grammar discussion threads.)

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I was just about to create an issue about that! I agree, I’m thoroughly confused by the examples. To me, the example sentences you listed are polar opposites of the other ones on that page.

Not only that, but deepl.com and Google translate seem to be confused about the meaning, as well (and they work usually quite well, even for more complex phrases, especially deepl.com). Both translate “この中ではタケシだけしか上手ではない” to “Only Takeshi is good at this”.

It’s strange.

Edit: I’ve talked to some Japanese folks, and they were initially also assuming it was about something “only Takeshi is good at”. But when I showed them the explanation on BunPro, they kind of agreed that it can be interpreted the other way. So at the very least, there seems to be some ambiguity about the meaning, maybe depending on context? Nevertheless, the given example sentences seem to have opposite meanings:

野菜だけしか食べれません
→ だけしか + negative = positive, eating only vegetables

タケシだけしか上手ではない
→ だけしか + negative = negative!, Takeshi is the only one NOT good at something

I think that warrants some explanation on the grammar point.

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