Adverbial particles (も, だけ, しか)


In Japanese, the adverbial particles 「も」(mo), 「だけ」(dake), and 「しか」(shika) are integral for expressing nuances such as inclusion, exclusion, and limitation.

Their proper usage can significantly change the meaning of a sentence, adding depth and precision to communication.

The Usage of 「も」

「も」 is akin to “also,” “too,” or “as well” in English.

It indicates inclusion or addition and is often used in place of other particles like 「は」, 「が」, or 「を」 when adding something to a previously mentioned list.

  • “彼も学生です。” (Kare mo gakusei desu – He is also a student.)

In this sentence, 「も」 suggests that in addition to others, he is a student too.

  • “私もです。” (Watashi mo desu – Me too.)

Here, 「も」 is used to agree or show a shared status with a previously stated fact.

The Usage of 「だけ」

「だけ」 conveys limitation or exclusivity, akin to “only” or “just” in English. It narrows down the scope of a statement to what is specifically mentioned.

  • “この店でこの品だけ売っています。” (Kono mise de kono shina dake utte imasu – They sell only this item in this store.)

The particle 「だけ」 limits the statement to just one specific item being sold in the store.

  • “五分だけ待って。” (Gofun dake matte – Wait for only five minutes.)

In this example, 「だけ」 sets a specific and limited duration for waiting.

The Usage of 「しか」

「しか」, used with a negative verb form, expresses limitation in a negative context.

It emphasizes that only the mentioned element is applicable or available, excluding all else.

  • “彼は英語しか話せません。” (Kare wa eigo shika hanasemasen – He can speak only English.)

This sentence indicates that his language ability is limited to only English.

  • “このレストランではビーガン料理しかありません。” (Kono resutoran de wa biigan ryouri shika arimasen – This restaurant only has vegan dishes.)

Here, 「しか」 emphasizes that vegan dishes are the only type of cuisine available in the restaurant.

Navigating Nuances and Avoiding Mistakes

Understanding the specific contexts for using 「も」, 「だけ」, and 「しか」 is crucial. Each has a distinct role.

「も」 for adding or agreeing, 「だけ」 for limiting to a specific element, and 「しか」 for expressing exclusivity in a negative context.

Using 「だけ」 where a negative limitation with 「しか」 is required can change the intended meaning of a sentence.


“彼はコーヒーだけ飲まない” (Kare wa koohii dake nomanai) implies he doesn’t drink only coffee, suggesting he drinks other things.

However, “彼はコーヒーしか飲まない” (Kare wa koohii shika nomanai) correctly implies that coffee is the only thing he does not drink.


Understanding the nuances and correct applications of the adverbial particles 「も」, 「だけ」, and 「しか」 is crucial for accurate and expressive Japanese communication.

Being aware of common errors and knowing how to avoid them will help in constructing more precise and meaningful sentences in Japanese.