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Saifu-ni sen-en shika nai

by Akemi Tanahashi and Hitomi Tashiro

Saifu-ni sen-en shika nai. (There’s only ¥1,000 in my wallet.)

Situation1: Mr. Mita asks Mr. Sere if he would like to go to a bar with him, but Mr. Sere declines.

三田: 今夜、一緒に飲まない?

セレ: 今夜は、ちょっと…。さいふに千円しかないし、クレジットカードも今月の限度を超えちゃったから…。

Mita: Kon-ya, issho-ni nomanai?

Sere: Kon-ya-wa, chotto … Saifu-ni sen-en shika nai-shi, kurejitto-kādo-mo kongetsu-no gendo-wo koechatta-kara…

Mita: Why don’t we drink in a bar this evening?

Sere: This evening is inconvenient. There’s only ¥1,000 in my wallet and, also, I’ve already gone over the limit on my credit card this month.

Today, we will introduce the meanings and usage of the particle しか (only). The pattern X(noun or noun phrase)しかV(verb)ない expresses that there is no other way but to do V as in あなたしか愛(あい)せない (I can love nobody but you) or as in 肉(にく)だったら鶏肉(とりにく)しか食べません (Talking about meat, I only eat chicken). When the verb is ある(to exist), the negative form is ない/ありません, as in 彼(かれ)の頭(あたま)の中(なか)には、出世(しゅっせ)しかない (literally, there is nothing but getting promoted in his brain). In order to use a verb for X, change it to the noun form as in 彼の頭の中には、出世することしかない (literally, there’s nothing in his brain but being promoted at the office). When X is a numeral in this pattern, it expresses the speaker’s feeling that the number is very little, as in Mr. Sere’s sentence in Situation 1. On the contrary, in this usage, the pattern Xだけある (there is X only) expresses the speaker’s attitude that he/she takes the existence of X positively.

Situation 2: High school classmates are talking about their coming baseball match.

広: うちのチームが戸山(とやま)高校(こうこう)に勝てるわけがないよなあ。

光男: まあ、がんばるしかないな。

Hiroshi: Uchi-no chīmu-ga Toyama Kōkō-ni kateru wake nai-yo-nā.

Mitsuo: Mā, ganbaru shika nai-na.

Hiroshi: It’s impossible for us to beat the Toyama High School team, isn’t it?

Mitsuo: Well, we have no choice but to do our best.

In the pattern Xしかない, when X is the dictionary form of a verb, it expresses that there is no way or choice other than X, as in Mitsuo’s sentence in Situation 2, or as in 借金(しゃっきん)が返(かえ)せないので、にげるしかない (Since I can’t clear off all my debts, there is no other way but to run away). The colloquially contracted form of しかない is っきゃない, as in わかれるっきゃない (There is nothing else for us to do but break up).

Bonus Dialogue: Continued from Situation 1. In the end, Mr. Mita convinces Mr. Sere to come with him to the bar, saying that he would like to consult Mr. Sere about their colleague Ms. Hashimoto.

セレ: 橋本(はしもと)さんのことで相談(そうだん)って、何(なに)?

三田: じつは、もう、ふられそうなんだ。つきあい始(はじ)めて、3週間(しゅうかん)しか経(た)っていないのに。

セレ: 理由(りゆう)は?

三田: 同(おな)じ時期(じき)に大崎(おおさき)さんにも声(こえ)をかけて、つきあい始(はじ)めたのがバレちゃって…。どうしたらいい?

セレ: それは、あやまるしかないでしょ。もちろん、大崎さんのほうは、断(ことわ)ったよね?

三田: それが…。橋本さんからふられたときのことを考(かんが)えて…。

セレ: ふうん。そういう考えの人(ひと)は、二人(ふたり)から、ふられるしかないと思うよ。

三田: セレくん、そんな冷(つめ)たいこと言(い)わないで、何かいい方法(ほうほう)を考えてよ! ぼくは今(いま)、橋本さんのことしか考えられないんだから。

Sere: What did you want to ask me about Ms. Hashimoto?

Mita: Actually, she may dump me soon, despite the fact we’ve only been going out about three weeks!

Sere: What’s the reason?

Mita: She discovered that I had asked Ms. Osaki for a date at the same time and that I’d started going out with her, too. What shall I do?

Sere: In this type of situation, you have no choice but to apologize. Of course, you declined Ms. Osaki, didn’t you?

Mita: Well, no, because of all this I might be dumped by Ms. Hashimoto.

Sere: I see. A man who thinks that way will inevitably be dumped by both of them.

Mita: Oh, Sere, don’t say such cruel things! Please think up a good plan for me — I can’t think of anything but Ms. Hashimoto.