Grammar Info
N3 Lesson 5: 3/21

しかない
have no choice but, only・just

In more casual language or manga/anime, しかない is sometimes shortened to っきゃない

Structure
Casual
Formal
Verb + しかない
Verb + しかありません
Details
Register Standard
使用域 一般
Information
しかない is a commonly used expression in Japanese that is partnered with verbs. It is a combination of しか, the 副助詞(ふくじょし) (adverbial particle), and the い-Adjective ない. This structure may be translated as ‘to have no choice but (A)’, or ‘there is only (A)’. しかない regularly emphasizes the point that nothing apart from (A) is possible.
To use しかない, simply attach it directly to the non-past form of whichever verb you would like to highlight as being the ‘only’ possible action.
  • こうなったら警察(けいさつ)呼(よ)ぶしかない
    If it’s come to this, there is no choice but to call the police.
  • もう電車(でんしゃ)来(こ)ないから、車(くるま)行(い)くしかない
    Since trains won't be coming anymore, there is no choice but to go by car.
Unlike だけ, which implies that one particular option was chosen (out of several), しか always insinuates that (A) is the only option, and therefore will sound much stronger than だけ. Also, as only one option exists, it will often be assumed by the listener that some particular circumstances resulted in (A) being all that can be done.
  • この時間帯(じかんたい)はピザハット以外(いがい)どこも開(あ)いていないね。こうなったらピザ頼(たの)むしかないね。
    At this hour, nowhere is open other than Pizza Hut. Now that it’s come to it, there is no choice but to order some pizza, right?
  • 今月(こんげつ)は休(やす)めないから、コンサートに行(い)く我慢(がまん)するしかない
    I can't take a day off this month, so I have no choice but to resist going to the concert.
Fun Fact
Occasionally, しかない may be used in manga, anime, or other forms of media that use casual language. In these cases, it is not uncommon to see しか abbreviated to っきゃ, resulting in っきゃない. However, this is not a common abbreviation in daily language.
  • この技(わざ)倒(たお)れないなら、必殺技(ひっさつわざ)使(つか)うっきゃないな!
    If I can't defeat them using this move, there is no other choice but to use my special move, is there?
  • これほど完璧(かんぺき)なチャンスは二度(にど)とないから、今(いま)やるっきゃないでしょう
    An opportunity this perfect will not come around a second time, so I have no other choice but to do it now.
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迎(むか)えに来(き)てもらえないので、歩(ある)いて帰(かえ)るしかない
(They) won’t come pick us up so we have no choice but to walk home.
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人(ひと)多(おお)いから、並(なら)ぶしかない
Because there are a lot of people, we have no choice but to line up.
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飲(の)みに行(い)くしかない。だって、私(わたし)誕生日(たんじょうび)だから
We have no choice but to go drinking. Why? Because it’s my birthday.
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Books
Tae Kim's Japanese Grammar Guide
Page 248
[AIAIJ] An Integrated Approach to Intermediate Japanese
Page 37