Just (だけ)

だけ is the most basic way of expressing “only” or “just”, e.g. I’ll just have one drink.

ひとつだけ
Just one.
わたしはビールを一杯いっぱいだけみます。
I’ll just have one drink.

The object particle is often omitted when だけ is used.

わたしはただのウエートレスだけじゃありません。
I’m not just a waitress.

だけ can also be added to verbs.

カメラの操作そうさ簡単かんたんです。ボタンをだけです。
The camera is easy to operate. Just push the button.
だけ気絶きぜつします。
Faint at just the sight of blood.

Nothing More Than (しか〜ない)

The particle しか is used with the negative to express that you have nothing more than that thing.

チケットが二枚にまいあります。
I have two tickets.
チケットが二枚にまいしかありません。
I only have two tickets.
10ドルがある。
I have $10.
10ドルしかない。
I have just $10.

Incidentally, although you might think that ドル is a counter you cannot say:

ドルが10あります。()

The insinuation is that the amount you have ($10, two tickets, etc.) is not enough or not a lot. Consequently, there are situations where we cannot use しか〜ない.

ねがいがひとつしかありません。()
I have just one favour (to ask).

This is unnatural because the implication is that one favour is not enough—you should be asking for several things. In this case, we should use だけ.

ねがいがひとつだけあります。
I have just one favour (to ask).

しか can be appended to other particles.

かね担当者たんとうしゃしかはらわない。
I will only pay the money to the person in charge.

Note the use of は to place emphasis on the money.

とうさんとしかはなしません。
I will only speak to my father.

None, Many, Several

Below we look at ways to express none, many, and several.

も〜ない

Of course we already know how to express “none” with the negative.

ほんがない。
I don’t have a book.

The structure も〜ない let’s us emphasise that we don’t even have one.

1ドルない。
I don’t even have a dollar.
ほん一冊いっさつない。
I don’t even have one book.
わたしはビールを一杯いっぱいみません。
I won’t drink even one beer.

We can combine question words with も and a negative verb to create the pronouns anything, anywhere, nothing, etc.

なにない。
I have nothing.
どこにもかない。
I won’t go anywhere.
だれにもわない。
I won’t meet anyone.
だれともはなさない。
I won’t speak to anyone.
なにともおもわない。
I don’t care at all [I don’t think anything].

も〜ある

Used with an affirmative verb the meaning is flipped, allowing us to emphasise that the quantity is a lot. It is the opposite of しか〜ない.

おくドルある。
I have as much as one-hundred million dollars.
数時間すうじかんかかるとおもうよ。
I think it will take as much as several hours.
彼女かのじょ1時間いちじかんはなしましたよ。
She spoke for a whole hour.

何【counter】も〜ある

Effectively, this expression is saying that no matter what the number you have at least that many to give us “countless” or—more simply—”many”.

ほん何冊なんさつある。
I’ve got countless numbers of books.
昨日きのうはビールを何杯なんばいみました。
Yesterday, I drank so many beers.
みせのケーキが大人気だいにんきです。何個なんこります。
That shops cakes are very popular—they sell untold numbers.

何【counter】か〜ある

With the question particle, the meaning becomes “several”. The use of か makes it an embedded question, as if the speaker is asking themselves what the quantity is.

テーブルのうえにはほん何冊なんさつあります。
There are several books on top of the table.
いくつ提案ていあん説明せつめいします。
I will explain several proposals.

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