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Japanese Grammar – dake (だけ) means “only” or “just”

dake (だけ) means "only" or "just"

Dake (だけ) means only or just and can be used with many words to express that there is “nothing else”.  We use this Japanese word exactly the same way as we use “only” in English, so it is very easy to learn.  It’s common to use だけ (dake) when we are referring to amounts as well.  For this reason, you will commonly see it used with ちょっと (chotto) and 少し (sukoshi), which can be both translated as “a little”.  Just think of だけ (dake) as a way to express that there is nothing more.  For example,

ちょっとだけ すこしだけ
chotto dake sukoshi dake
(just a little) (just a little)
chotto dake sukoshi dake

 

We will also take a look at しか (shika) and のみ (nomi) as alternatives to express the same idea of “only” in Japanese.  しか (shika) will be used in a negative sentence, while だけ (dake) remains positive.  We have anime practice and examples below.

 

 

Anime Practice with だけ and しか (dake and shika)

 

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More examples of だけ (dake) as “only” or “just”

anata dake o aishite imasu

あなただけあいしています。

anata dake o aishite imasu.

(I only love you.)

 

anata dake o aishite imasu

 
 

ひとだけあります。

hitotsu dake arimasu.

(I only have one.) / (There is only one.)

 

hitotsu dake arimasu

 

ちょっとだけねがいします。

chotto dake, onegaishimasu.

(Just a little, please.)

 

chotto dake, onegaishimasu

 

ふただけいただきました。

futatsu dake itadakimashita.

(I received only two.)

 

futatsu dake itadakimashita

The above four examples are dealing with nouns, but we can also use だけ (dake) with verbs as well.  We will place だけ (dake) directly after the phrase to emphasize that there is only one action left. 

 

あとにくだけです。

ato wa niku wo kau dake desu.

(All that’s left is to buy meat.)

 

ato wa niku wo kau dake desu

ato wa niku wo kau dake desu
Note that だけ (dake) is commonly placed in the same construction as あとは when we are using a verb.  あとは means “what’s remaining”.

だけ (dake) can also mean “as much as”

宿題しゅくだいをできるだけやってください

shukudai o dekiru dake yatte kudasai.

(Do as much as you can of your homework.)

あすまた出来できだけはやくここにてください。

Asu mata dekiru dake hayaku koko ni kite kudasai.

(Please come here tomorrow as soon as you can.)

 
shukudai o dekiru dake yatte kudasai. Asu mata dekiru dake hayaku koko ni kite kudasai.
shukudai o dekiru dake yatte kudasai

のみ (nomi) is a very formal way to say だけ (dake)

You won’t find のみ (nomi) in regular conversations.  In fact, it’s so formal that you will only see it in books, ads or on the news.  If you are at an intermediate level, you can study this word with a couple examples below:

 

日曜日にちようびのみやすみです。

Nichiyoubi nomi yasumi desu.

(I only have a day off on Sundays.)

放題ほうだい女性じょせいのみ千円せんえん

Nomihoudai! Josei nomi sen en.

(All you can drink. ¥1,000 only for women.) 

Nichiyoubi nomi yasumi desu. Nomihoudai! Josei nomi sen en.
Nichiyoubi nomi yasumi desu Nomihoudai! Josei nomi sen en

しか (shika) is the negative version of だけ (dake)

しか can be used with a negative verb to deliver more emphasis on “nothing else”.  To make this as clear as possible, let’s compare だけ (dake) and しか (shika) and see how their English interpretations differ.
 
Hitotsu dake arimasu

ひとだけあります。

Hitotsu dake arimasu.

(I only have one.)

ひとしかありません。

Hitotsu shika arimasen.

(I have nothing except this one.) 

Hitotsu dake arimasu. Hitotsu shika arimasen.
 

As you can see, the general meaning remain the same.  The only difference is that しか (shika) gives the expression a more negative impact.  

 
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