しかない (shikanai) Meaning Japanese [JLPT N4]

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しかない (shikanai) Meaning Japanese [JLPT N4]

The expression しか~ない (shika~nai) means only, nothing but, is the only thing.

しか~ない is similar to だけ in its meaning of only, but unlike だけ, しか~ない can only be used for negative expressions.

In this post we learn more about the meaning of しかない, how it is formed, and when しかない is used through real example sentences.


How しか~ない is formed

しか~ない is made up of:

しか follows the noun to which the expression is applied, then follows the complete sentence, and at the end we find the verb in the negative form:

Noun+しか+~+ない

How and when to use しか~ない

The expression しか~ない indicates that there is nothing outside of what is mentioned. In fact, the noun or the indicated quantity is the only thing that exists, there is nothing beyond that.

Let's see a simple example:

(さい)()(ひゃく)(えん)しかない。

There is nothing but 100 yen in the wallet.

This sentence indicates that, beyond 100 yen, there is really nothing else. It can be seen that the meaning is similar to だけ, but the difference is that:

  • The use of だけ indicates that there are only 100 yen, with no particular emphasis on whether this amount is enough, too little, or anything else
  • Using しか instead you want to indicate that there is really nothing else, only 100 yen. For example, if someone asks you to give you more money, with しか you can indicate that you have nothing else than 100 yen
これしかない。

There is nothing else but this.

しか always requires the verb that follows in the negative form. If the verb is positive, then use だけ

しかない - No other choice

The expression しかない (shikanai) is also widely used to indicate that there is nothing else (nothing to do, nothing besides this, no other possibility).

Verb+しかない

しかない follows a verb, and emphasizes the fact that nothing outside the indicated action is possible.

(けい)(さつ)()ぶしかない。

There is no choice but to call the police.

しかない conveys the idea that, considering the situation we are in, there can be no other way, possibility, or choice than the one indicated.

It is possible to find in manga, anime, and in colloquial language the abbreviated form of しか: っきゃ, which together with the verb in the negative form becomes っきゃない. This abbreviation is not very common in everyday language.

Examples of しかない

(きみ)たちは(ぼく)(ころ)されるしかない。

There is no choice for you but to get killed by me.

それができないなら()ぬしかないよ。

If you can't do that then you can only die.

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