Grammar Info
N3 Lesson 6: 13/24

だけしか~ない
To emphasize '~only', nothing but

Can express pity

Structure
Casual
Formal
Noun + だけしか + ない
Noun + だけしか + ありません
Details
Register Standard
使用域 一般
Information
だけしか is a combination of two 副助詞(ふくじょし) (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.
  • 彼(かれ)は野菜(やさい)だけしか食(た)べれません
    He can only eat vegetables.
  • 土曜日(どようび)だけしか忙(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.
  • この中(なか)ではタケシだけしか上手(じょうず)ではない。他(ほか)はみんな結構(けっこう)うまい。
    In this group, Takeshi is the only one that isn't good. Everyone else is considerably skilled.
  • 何(なん)でこのコップだけしか500円(えん)ではない
    Why is this cup the only one that isn't 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.
  • 私(わたし)は日本語(にほんご)だけしか話(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)しかだけ休(やすみ)み取(と)れない。 (Unnatural)
    I can take only breaks on Sunday.
  • 日曜日(にちようび)だけしか休(やす)み取(と)れない。 (Natural)
    I can only take breaks on Sunday.
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この時間(じかん)、医師(いし)は一人(ひとり)だけしかいません
At this time of day, there is only one doctor present.
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椅子(いす)ここあるものだけしかありません
Chairs are the only things here.
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私(わたし)には従兄弟(いとこ)が一人(ひとり)だけしかいません
I only have one cousin.
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