Mita-san wa, itsumo jō dan-bakari itte-iru. (You’re always joking, Mr. Mita.)

Situation 1: Ms. Gray is talking with Mr. Mita.

グレイ: 経理の大宮さんのところ、三つ子がうまれたんですって!

三田: あれっ、さっきぼくがそう言ったじゃない。

グレイ: 三田さんは、いつもじょうだんばかり言っているから、これもじょうだんだと思ったのよ。

Gray: Keiri-no Ōmiya-san-no tokoro, mitsugo-ga umareta-n-desutte!

Mita: Are’, sakki boku-ga sō itta-ja-nai.

Gray: Mita-san-wa, itsumo jōdan-bakari itte-iru-kara, kore-mo jōdan-da-to omotta-no-yo.

Gray: I heard the wife of Mr. Omiya, from the accounting section, had triplets!

Mita: What? I gave you that information a little while ago.

Gray: You’re always joking, Mr. Mita, so I thought that was a joke, too.

Today, we will introduce the meanings and usage of the particle ばかり, the colloquially emphasized form of which is ばっかり. In the pattern Xばかり, the particle limits the range of X, as in Ms. Gray’s じょうだん(joke)ばかり, which means “only joking.” In this usage, X can be the dictionary form of a verb as in 料理(りょうり)はもうできあがって、あとは食(た)べるばかりだ (All the dishes are already cooked and we only have to eat) or noun-modifying form of an adjective as in 大(おお)きいばかりがいいというわけではない (Just being big isn’t necessarily good). When X is the numeral or noun that expresses the quantity, Xばかりshows that X does not have to be exact, as in 3本(ぼん)ばかり (about three of them) in the Bonus Dialogue. This is used to show the speaker’s modesty: ほんの少(すこ)しばかりですが、どうぞめしあがってください (It is only a little, but I’ll be glad if you’ll eat this). In the usages here, ばかり can be replaced by だけ (only).

Situation 2: Mitsuo talks to his mother on the weekend.

光男: ねえ、何か、おやつない?

母: あら、今お昼ご飯食べたばかりでしょ。もうおなかが空いたの?

Mitsuo: Nee, nanika, oyatsu nai?

Haha: Ara, ima o-hirugohan tabeta bakari-desho. Mō onaka-ga suita-no?

Mitsuo: Mom, is there snack or something?

Mother: What? We finished our lunch just now. Are you already hungry?

X(verb in ta-form) expresses subjectively that almost no time has passed since X, as in the mother’s 食(た)べたばかり (We ate lunch a short time ago). In this usage, ばかりcannot be replaced by だけ.

Bonus Dialogue: At home, Mrs. Okubo opens a package that was sent from her husband’s elder brother.

妻: うわあ、お兄(にい)さんのところから、大根(だいこん)ばっかり10本(ぽん)も送(おく)ってきた!

夫: ぼくが好(す)きだから送ってくれたんだろうけど、10本は多(おお)いなあ。

妻: 私(わたし)、きのう買(か)ったばかりなのよ。それを入(い)れると、11本。

夫: となりに、3本(ぼん)ばかりあげたらどうだ?

妻: そうしたいんだけど、おとなりは、家庭(かてい)菜園(さいえん)をやっているでしょ。じつは、今朝(けさ)1本くれたのよ。それを入れると12本(ほん)。

夫: うーん、すてるのはもったいないし、だけど毎日(まいにち)大根ばっかり食(た)べるわけにもいかないし…。

妻: ああ、そうだ、おばあちゃんから聞(き)いたことがある。戦争中(せんそうちゅう)は、お米(こめ)が足(た)りないから、大根を入れて食べたそうよ。うちは防災(ぼうさい)の日(ひ)に何(なに)もしなかったから、1か月(げつ)遅(おく)れで、「戦時食(せんじしょく)」を食べましょう。それに、ヘルシーでしょ。

夫: うーん、ヘルシーか…。平和(へいわ)はありがたいものだなあ。

Wife: My goodness! Your brother sent us 10 big radishes!

Husband: I think he sent them to us because I like them. But 10 is too many.

Wife: I just bought one yesterday. Including it, we have 11 radishes.

Husband: Why not give two or three of them to our neighbor?

Wife: I’d like to, but they already have their kitchen garden. Actually, they gave me a radish this morning. Including it, we have 12 of them.

Husband: Hmm, I don’t want to waste them, but it’ll be impossible for us to eat only radishes every day.

Wife: I’ve got it! My grandma once told me that she and her family ate radish-porridge during the war, because they were short of rice. We did nothing on the disaster preparation day, so let’s eat war-time food one month late. And besides, it’s healthy, isn’t it?

Husband: Hmm, healthy … ? We should thank God for this age of peace!

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