Yes, you read that right. I said “words”, as in plural. This is of course because the different ways of saying only in Japanese each give a slightly different nuance to the meaning of the whole sentence.
If it’s cool with you, I’d now like to give you a how to on the Japanese words for only so that you can use each one whenever you feel it is appropriate to do so.
Here we go!
だけ – dake
The easiest way to say only in Japanese is to use だけ (dake). In addition to “only” it can also be translated as “just” and it is usually used in a situation where you want to imply a limitation.
nihongo ga sukoshi dake wakaru.
I only know a little Japanese
Use this phrase to say that you know “only a little” bit of Japanese. Keep on reading to help solve that problem! 🙂
のみ – nomi
As I’m sure you are aware, the written part of a language is often different than the spoken part. It tends to be more formal and has additional grammar rules it needs to follow. How does that apply here? のみ (nomi) can be considered the written version of だけ (dake). You’ll read it more often than you’ll hear it.
But it can’t always be used… Use だけ (dake) instead of のみ (nomi) when it comes to adjectives and quantifiers.
ただ – tada
ただ (tada) also means “just” or “only” but has a different connotation than だけ (dake). Where だけ (dake) implys a limitation of some sort, ただ (tada) is used to say that something isn’t special. Kind of like, “this is nothing special, just a book I found.”
tada no hon aru.
It’s just a book.
しか – shika
Now here’s where things get a little interesting. しか (shika) also means “only”, and it is used very similarly to the way だけ (dake) is, but it has a little different meaning and construction. しか (shika) is used to express regret. As in, “I (regrettably) only have a bicycle” 🙁
The construction part is that you have to change the verb to its negative form.
jitensha shika motte inai.
I only have a bicycle.
しか (shika) can also be thought of as meaning “nothing expect for”, which is why you have to change the verb to the negative form. “I have nothing at all, except for a bike.”
唯一の– yui itsu no
Are you tired of all these different ways to say “only” in Japanese yet? Lol, sorry to throw so much at you all at once! I’ve only got one more for you now and it’s 唯一の (yui itsu no) and it means “only” as in “the only one of its kind.” Combine it with a noun to emphasize the uniqueness of it.
yui itsu no ai.
The only love.
Hopefully you found those five different ways to say “only” useful. Here’s a quick recap:
だけ (dake) – only, expressing a limited amount
のみ (nomi) -written version of だけ – can’t always be used
ただ (tada) – just, as in “nothing special”
しか (shika) – “nothing except for” it expresses regret
唯一の (yui itsu no) – uniqueness, as in “the only one of its kind”
Thanks! Leave me a comment and let me know what you think! 🙂