Grammar Info
N4 Lesson 8: 14/18

there's only, nothing but

Noun + しか + Verb[ない]
Register Standard
使用域 一般
The 副助詞(ふくじょし) (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 否定表現(ひていひょうげん) (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人(にん)しか捕(つか)まていない
    Only 3 of the criminals have been caught so far.
  • この店(みせ)牛丼(ぎゅうどん)しか置(お)いていない
    This store only has gyudon.
  • 釣(つ)りに行(い)っ、一匹(いっぴき)しか釣(つ)ない悲(かな)しくなる
    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)から雨(あめ)降(ふ)から、今日(きょう)に行(い)くしかない
    Since it will start raining tomorrow, we have no choice but to go today.
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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]
It is difficult to talk to people who only respond with 'yes' and 'no'.
I am sorry, but it looks like there is only space open in the afternoon.
みんなの日本語 II
Page 18 [CH 27]
Marugoto Elementary 2 (A2) Rikai
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[DBJG] A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar
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Tae Kim's Japanese Grammar Guide
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[AIAIJ] An Integrated Approach to Intermediate Japanese
Page 37