Japanese Grammar Bank


Today, we teach 4 ways to say only in Japanese.

They all have a different nuance, so look at the example sentences carefully to get a true feel for how you should use each one.


だけ dake

The sentence structure is very simple when using だけ.

Put だけ after the dictionary form of:

– a verb (e.g., 行くiku, 飲む nomu, etc.)

–  i-adjectives/nouns

– or な na-adjectives with a な na after

For example:


Dictionary form of verb/adjective/noun + だけ

ikkai ikimashita


I went once.
ikkai dake ikimashita.


I only went once.

Generally, we use だけ to emphasise the limited quantity or extent of something. It can also be used to emphasise exclusivity.

One important thing to note, is that だけ is neutral and doesn’t express the speaker’s thoughts. 

これだけ欲しい。Kore dake hoshii.I want only this.
お金が足りないだけです。Okane ga tarinai dake desu.It’s only a matter of not having enough money.
View More Examples:
だけが知っている。Kare dake ga shitteiru.Only he knows.
これだけ食べてもいい?Kore dake tabetemo ii?Is it okay to eat only this?
彼女だけが特別です。Kanojo dake ga tokubetsu desu.She is the only special one.
この本だけ貸してください。Kono hon dake kashite kudasai.Please lend only this book.
これだけで十分です。Kore dake de juubun desu.This is enough on its own.
だけが残った。Kare dake ga nokotta.He is the only one left.
この町だけが静かです。Kono machi dake ga shizuka desu.Only this town is quiet.
彼女だけが笑っていた。Kanojo dake ga waratteita.She was the only one laughing.


しか…ない shika … nai

しか…ない is a way to express “only,” and is typically used when the speaker wants to emphasise their thoughts on the sense of limitation or restriction of something.

It’s commonly used in negative sentences to emphasise the lack of options or alternatives. 

Let’s take a look at an example between しか…ない and だけ:

ここにピザが一枚だけあります。 ここにピザが一枚しかありません。
koko ni piza ga ichimai dake arimasu.koko ni piza ga ichimai shika arimasen.
There’s only one pizza here.There’s just one pizza here.
Note: no personal feelings involved, just factualNote: personal feelings of disappointment that there’s only one pizza involved, not purely factual
View More Examples:
これしかないKore shika nai.There’s only this.
彼は一人しか来なかった。Kare wa hitori shika konakatta.Only he came, no one else.
お金が一万円しかありません。Okane ga ichiman en shika arimasen.I have only 10,000 yen.
彼女にはこれしかあげませんでした。Kanojo ni wa kore shika agemasen deshita.I gave her only this.
この店には一種類しかないKono mise ni wa isshurui shika nai.There’s only one type in this store.
彼にしかできない仕事です。Kare ni shika dekinai shigoto desu.It’s a job only he can do.
彼女は一日に一回しか食べないKanojo wa ichinichi ni ikkai shika tabenai.She eats only once a day.
これしか持っていません。Kore shika motteimasen.I have only this with me.
この問題には一つの答えしかありません。Kono mondai ni wa hitotsu no kotae shika arimasen.There’s only one answer to this problem.
この場所には彼しかいませんでした。Kono basho ni wa kare shika imasen deshita.There was no one in this place but him.
彼は一時間しか寝ませんでした。Kare wa ichijikan shika nemasen deshita.He slept for only one hour.


ばかり bakari

In certain circumstances, ばかり can be used to express “only”.

It generally comes with a sense of surprise and sometimes judgment but can be used in a positive or negative way.

This is a tough point to get the hang of because so many other grammar points use it for a totally different meaning.

Be sure that you’re using the structure below when trying to express “only”: 


Noun + ばかり

Verb (て te form) + ばかり

Kare wa benkyou bakari shiteimasu.


He only studies.
Watashi wa shigoto bakari desu.


I’m only working.
View More Examples:
この店は寿司ばかり売っています。Kono mise wa sushi bakari utteimasu.This store sells only sushi.
彼女は笑顔ばかりです。Kanojo wa egao bakari desu.She is always smiling.
彼は食べ物ばかり考えています。Kare wa tabemono bakari kangaeteimasu.He only thinks about food.
この映画はアクションばかりです。Kono eiga wa akushon bakari desu.This movie is all action.
彼はお金ばかり追求しています。Kare wa okane bakari tsuikyuu shiteimasu.He is only chasing money.
今日は雨ばかり降っています。Kyou wa ame bakari futteimasu.It’s been raining all day.
彼女は洋服ばかり買っています。Kanojo wa youfuku bakari katteimasu.She only buys clothes.
この本はページが白紙ばかりです。Kono hon wa peeji ga shiroshi bakari desu.This book has nothing but blank pages.
彼はスポーツばかりします。Kare wa supootsu bakari shimasu.He only plays sports.


ただ can often be translated to “just” or “only”. It often comes at the start of the sentence and nicely pairs with だけ too.

It’s used to elaborate on a situation that’s been mentioned before.

Let’s take a look at the scenarios below: 

When talking about an Italian restaurant

Sou da ne, piza wa karera no tokui ryouri dakara ne.


That’s right, pizza is their speciality, you know.
Sou, tada piza dake janakute, pasuta mo oishii ndesu yo.


Yeah, not just pizza, but their pasta is delicious too.

When talking about A having seen B with a guy at a bar

Aa, wakarimashita. Anata-tachi wa kanari naka ga yosasou datta kara, yoku wakaranakattan desu.


Oh, I see. You two seemed pretty close, so I wasn’t sure.
 Hai, nannen mo no aida tomodachi desu ga, watashitachi no aida ni wa Romansu wa arimasen.
Kare wa tada no tomodachi desu, sore ijou de wa arimasen


Yes, we’ve been friends for years, but there’s nothing romantic between us.
He’s only a friend, nothing more.
View More Examples:
ただの友達です。Tada no tomodachi desu.He/She is just a friend.
これはただの冗談です。Kore wa tada no joudan desu.This is just a joke.
それはただの誤解です。Sore wa tada no gokai desu.It’s only a misunderstanding.
この本はただの小説です。Kono hon wa tada no shousetsu desu.This book is just a novel.
彼はただ遊んでいるだけです。Kare wa tada asonde iru dake desu.He is just playing around.
これはただの始まりです。Kore wa tada no hajimari desu.This is just the beginning.
それはただの例外です。Sore wa tada no reigai desu.That is just an exception.
私はただ一人です。Watashi wa tada hitori desu.I am just alone.
今、ただ眠りたい。Ima, tada nemuritai.Right now, I just want to sleep.
これはただの装飾品です。Kore wa tada no soushokuhin desu.This is just a decoration.


Here is a summary of all structures studied in this lesson about Only in Japanese:

  • しか…ない is to express an opinionated version of “only,” emphasising the lack of something or disappointment.
  • だけ is a neutral way to express “only,” when telling facts.
  • ばかり is used to express “only” or “just” with a sense of surprise, both in positive and negative sentences.
  • ばかり should be used with caution, owing to the similarity to other grammar points.
  • ただ is used to elaborate on a situation mentioned previously.

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How to say Only in Japanese?

we use だけ to emphasise the limited quantity or extent of something. It can also be used to emphasise exclusivity.


Kore dake hoshii.

I want only this.

しか…ない is a way to express “only,” and is typically used when the speaker wants to emphasise their thoughts on the sense of limitation or restriction of something.

It’s commonly used in negative sentences to emphasise the lack of options or alternatives. 


Kare wa hitori shika konakatta.

Only he came, no one else.

Check out our free lesson about Only in Japanese here for more sentence structures and examples.

How to say If in Japanese?

There is several ways to say if in Japanese, depending on the situation. To summarise:

ば is used for real or concrete situations.

たら is used for hypothetical or speculative situations.

なら is used for conjecture or assumption. 

と is used for expressing natural consequence.

もし adds an extra air of uncertainty. Often combined with one of the above conditionals.

Check out our free lesson about If in Japanese here.

How to say However in Japanese?

しかし (shikashi) is a formal way to express “however” in Japanese.

This expression is typically used in writing or formal speech and can be used to contrast two opposing ideas. It shifts the sentence in a negative way. 


Kono chihou wa shizen ga yutaka desu. Shikashi, jishin ga ooi desu.

This region is abundant in nature, but there are many earthquakes.

それでも (soredemo) can be used in the same way as you would use “nevertheless” or “even so” in English.

It can be used to show the contrast between two ideas. It’s slightly different to しかし in that it acknowledges the first statement, and then offers up something new.

It shifts to a more positive light whereas しかし shifts to a negative light.


Kanojo wa isogashii desu. Soredemo, watashitachi wa deeto o tanoshimemashita.

She is busy, but nevertheless, we were able to enjoy our date.

Check out our free lesson about However in Japanese here.

How to say Almost in Japanese?

ほとんど hotondo

It can be used in both a positive and negative way. A のno has to come after ほとんどhotondo if a noun follows it.


Hotondo kansei shimashita.

It’s almost complete.

大抵 taitei & 大体 daitai

They are only really used in positive situations. Remember that a の no is needed before a noun.


Taitei no hito wa yorokobimasu.

Most people are happy.

Check out our free lesson about Almost in Japanese here.

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