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    Meaning: Expressing various degrees of amounts
    JLPT Level: 0
    Category: lesson
    Author: TaeKim

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Expressing various degrees of amounts

This lesson will cover various expressions used to express various degrees of amounts. For example, sentences like, "I only ate one", "That was all that was left", "There's just old people here", or "I ate too much" all indicate whether there's a lot or little of something. Most of these expressions are made with particles and not as separate words as you see in English.

Indicating that's all there is using 「だけ」

The particle 「だけ」 is used to express that that's all there is. Just like the other particles we have already learned, it is directly attached to the end of whichever word that it applies to.


(1) りんごだけ
- Just apple(s) (and nothing else).

(2) これそれだけ
-Just that and this (and nothing else).
particles usually start from the most specific to the most general.

(1) それだけは食べないでください
- Just don't eat that. (Anything else is assumed to be OK).

(2) このだけを歌わなかった
- Didn't sing just this song.

(3) そのだけが好きだったんだ
- That person was the only person I liked.

The same goes for double particles. Again 「だけ」 must come first.

(1) この販売機だけでは500円玉使えない
- Cannot use 500 yen coin in just this vending machine.

With minor particles such as 「から」 or 「まで」, it is difficult to tell which should come first. When in doubt, try googling to see the level of popularity of each combination. It turns out that 「からだけ」 is almost twice as popular as 「だけから」 with a hit number of 90,000 vs. 50,000.

(1) 小林さんからだけには返事来なかった
- A reply has not come from only Kobayashi-san (topic + target).

Unlike some particles, you can directly attach 「だけ」 to verbs as well.

(1) 準備終わったから、これから食べるだけだ。
- Since the preparations are done, from here we just have to eat.

(2) ここ名前書くだけでいいですか?
- Is it ok to just write [my] name here?

Using 「のみ」 as a formal version of 「だけ」

A particle that is essentially identical both grammatically and in meaning to 「だけ」 is 「のみ」. However, unlike 「だけ」, which is used in regular conversations, 「のみ」 is usually only used in a written context. It is often used for explaining policies, in manuals, and other things of that nature. This grammar really belongs in the advanced section since formal language has a different flavor and tone from what we have seen so far. However, it is covered here because it is essentially identical to 「だけ」. Just googling for 「のみ」 will quickly show the difference in the type of language that is used with 「のみ」 as opposed to 「だけ」.
(1) この乗車券発売当日のみ有効です。
- This boarding ticket is only valid on the date on which it was purchased.

(2) アンケート対象大学生のみです。
- The targets of this survey are only college students.

Indication that there's nothing else using 「しか」

I carefully phrased the title of this section to show that 「しか」 must be used to indicate the lack of everything else. In other words, the rest of the sentence must always be negative.
(1) これしかない。- There's nothing but this.

The following is wrong.
(誤) これしかある。- (Wrong, wrong, wrong)

As you can see, 「しか」 has an embedded negative meaning while 「だけ」 doesn't have any particular nuance.
(1) これだけ見る。- See just this.
(2) これだけ見ない。- Don't see just this.
(3) これしか見ない。- Don't see anything else but this.

Let's see some example sentences.
(1) 朝ご飯しか食べられなかった。- Couldn't eat anything but breakfast.

Notice that unlike 「だけ」, it is necessary to finish off the sentence.
質問) 全部買うの?- You're buying everything?
(1) ううんこれだけ。- Nah, just this.
(2) ううんこれしか買わない - Nah, won't buy anything else but this.
(誤) ううんこれしか。 - (Wrong, the sentence must explicitly indicate the negative.)

While the major particles always come last, it turns out that 「しか」 must come after 「から」 and 「まで」. A google search of 「からしか」 beats 「しかから」 by an overwhelming 60,000 to 600.
(1) アリスからしか何ももらってない。- I didn't receive anything except from Alice.

You can also use this grammar with verbs.
(1) これから頑張るしかない!- There's nothing to do but try our best!
(2) こうなったら逃げるしかない。- There no choice but to run away once it turns out like this.
(3) もう腐ったから、捨てるしかないよ。- It's rotten already so there's nothing to do but throw it out.

Expressing the opposite of 「だけ」 with 「ばかり」

「ばかり」 is used to express the condition where there's so much of something to the point where there's nothing else. Notice this is fundamentally different from 「しか」 which expresses a lack of everything else but the item in question. In more casual situations, 「ばかり」 is usually pronounced 「ばっかり」 or just 「ばっか」. For example, let's say you went to a party to find, much to your dismay, the whole room filled with middle-aged women. You might say the following.
(1) だよ!おばさんばっかりじゃないか?
- What the? Isn't it nothing but obasan?

Or perhaps a little more girly:
(2) いやだ。おばさんばっかり
- Eww. It's nothing but obasan.


Let's look at some more examples.
(1) 漫画ばっかり読んでてさ。かっこ悪い
- Takashi-kun is reading nothing but comic books... He's so uncool.

It is quite common in casual speech to end midsentence like this. Notice 「読んでて」 is the te-form of 「読んでいる」 with the 「い」 dropped. We assume that the conclusion will come somewhere later in the story.

(2) 麻雀ばかりです。
- He's nothing but mahjong. (He does nothing but play mahjong.)

(3) 直美ちゃん遊ぶばっかりでしょう!
- You're hanging out with Naomi-chan all the time, aren't you!

(4) 最近仕事ばっかだよ。
- Lately, it's nothing but work.

Saying there's too much of something using 「すぎる

すぎる」 is a regular ru-verb written 「過ぎる」 meaning, "to exceed". However, much like 「~てほしい」 you can modify the meaning of other verbs and adjectives. When 「すぎる」 is attached to the end of other verbs and adjectives, it means that it is too much or that it has exceeded the normal levels. For verbs, you must directly attach 「すぎる」 to the stem of the verb. For example, to eat too much would become 「食べすぎる」 and to drink too much would become 「飲みすぎる」. For adjectives, you just attach it to the end with the one condition that the 「い」 in i-adjectives must be removed (as usual). One more rule is that for both negative verbs and adjectives, one must remove the 「い」 from 「ない」 and replace with 「さ」 before attaching 「すぎる」. There is no tense (past or non-past) associated with this grammar. Since 「すぎる」 is a regular ru-verb, use of this grammar results in a regular ru-verb.
Using 「すぎる」 to indicate there's too much of something
  • 例) 食べ食べすぎる
  • 例) 太りすぎる
  • 2. For na-adjectives, simply attach 「すぎる」. For i-adjectives, remove the last 「い」 first before attaching 「すぎる」.
  • 例) 静か静かすぎる
  • 例) 大き大きすぎる
  • 3. For negative verbs and adjectives, replace the last 「い」 from 「ない」 with 「さ」 and then attach 「すぎる
  • 例) 食べな食べな食べなさすぎる
  • 例) 面白くな面白くな面白くなさすぎる
  • Note: I-adjectives that end in 「ない」 in their regular forms will follow the third rule even though they are not negative.
  • 例) つまならなつまならなつまならなさすぎる
  • 例) もったいなもったいなもったいなさすぎる


(1) 佐藤さん料理上手で、また食べ過ぎました
- Satou-san is good at cooking and I ate too much again.

(2) お酒飲みすぎないように気をつけてね。
- Be careful to not drink too much, ok?

(3) 大きすぎるからトランク入らないぞ。
- It won't fit in the trunk cause it's too big, man.

(4) 静かすぎるかもしれないよ。
- It's too quiet. It might be a trap, you know.

(5) 時間足りなさすぎて何もできなかった
- Due to too much of a lack of time, I couldn't do anything.

(6) には、彼女がもったいなさすぎるよ。
- She is totally wasted on him (too good for him).

(Aさん) 昨晩こと全然覚えてないな。
- Man, I don't remember anything about last night.

(Bさん) それ飲みすぎだよ。
- That's drinking too much.

Adding the 「も」 particle to express excessive amounts

When the 「も」 particle comes after some type of amount, it means that the amount indicated is way too much. For instance, let's look at the next example.
(1) 昨日電話三回したよ!
- I called you like three times yesterday!

Notice that the 「も」 particle is attached to the amount "three times". This sentence implies that the speaker called even three times and still the person didn't pick up the phone. We understand this to mean that three times are a lot of times to call someone.

(2) 試験のために三時間勉強した
- I studied three whole hours for the exam.

(3) 今年十キロ太っちゃった
- I gained 10 whole kilograms this year!

Using 「ほど」 to express the extent of something

The noun 「ほど」(程) is attached to a word in a sentence to express the extent of something. It can modify nouns as well as verbs as seen in the next example.
(1) 今日天気それほど寒くない
- Today's weather is not cold to that extent.

(2) 寝る時間ないほど忙しい
- Busy to the extent that there's no time to sleep.

When you use this with conditionals, you can express something that translates into English as, "The more you [verb], the more..." The grammar is always formed in the following sequence: [conditional of verb] followed immediately by [same verb+ ほど]

(1) 韓国料理食べれば食べるほどおいしくなる
- About Korean food, the more you eat the tastier it becomes.

The literal translation is, "About Korean food, if you eat, to the extent that you eat, it becomes tasty." which essentially means the same thing. extent of the action.

(1) 歩いたら歩くほど迷ってしまった。
- The more I walked, the more I got lost.

(2) 勉強すればするほどよくなるよ。
- The more you study, the more you will become smarter.

You can also use this grammar with i-adjectives by using the 「ば」 conditional.

(1) iPodは、ハードディスク容量大きければ大きいほどもっとたくさん保存できます
- About iPod, the larger the hard disk capacity, the more songs you can save.

(2) 航空券安ければ安いほどいいとは限らない
- It's not necessarily the case that the cheaper the ticket, the better it is.
strange to use the 「なら」 conditional in this fashion, you will hardly ever see this grammar used with na-adjectives. Since 「ほど」 is treated as a noun, make sure you don't forget to use 「な」 to attach the noun to the na-adjective.

(1) 文章は、短ければ短いほど、簡単なら簡単なほどよいです。
- The shorter and simpler the sentences, the better it is.

Using 「~さ」 with adjectives to indicate an amount

We will now learn how to add 「さ」 to adjectives to indicate an amount of that adjective. For example, we can attach 「さ」 to the adjective for "high" in order to get "height". Instead of looking at the height, we can even attach 「さ」 to the adjective for "low" to focus on the amount of lowness as opposed to the amount of highness. In fact, there is nothing to stop of from using this with any adjective to indicate an amount of that adjective. The result becomes a regular noun indicating the amount of that adjective.
Adding 「~さ」 to adjectives to indicate an amount
  • For i-adjectives: First remove the trailing 「い」 from the i-adjective and then attach 「さ」
  • 例) 
  • 例) 
  • For na-adjectives: Just attach 「さ」 to the end of the na-adjective
  • 例) 穏やか穏やか
The result becomes a regular noun.


(1) このビル高さですか?
- What is the height of this building?

(2) 聴覚敏感人間比べると、はるかだ。
- If you compare the level of sensitivity of hearing of dogs to humans, it is far above.

Copyright © 2003-2006 Tae Kim (
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