LearnJapanese Tae Kim's Guide to Learning Japanese





Expressing Amounts

Posted by Tae Kim

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」

Vocabulary

  1. りんご - apple
  2. これ - this
  3. それ - that
  4. 食べる 【たべ・る】 (ru-verb) - to eat
  5. この - this (abbr. of これの)
  6. 歌 【うた】 - song
  7. 歌う 【うた・う】 (u-verb) - to sing
  8. その - that (abbr. of それの)
  9. 人 【ひと】 - person
  10. 好き 【す・き】 (na-adj) - likable; desirable
  11. 販売機 【はん・ばい・き】 - vending machine
  12. 五百円玉 【ご・ひゃく・えん・だま】 - 500 yen coin
  13. 小林 【こ・ばやし】 - Kobayashi (last name)
  14. 返事 【へん・じ】 - reply
  15. 来る 【く・る】 (exception) - to come
  16. 準備 【じゅん・び】 - preparations
  17. 終わる 【お・わる】 (u-verb) - to end
  18. ここ - here
  19. 名前 【な・まえ】 - name
  20. 書く 【か・く】 (u-verb) - to write
  21. いい (i-adj) - good

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.

Examples

  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).

When one of the major particles are also applied to a word, these particles must come after 「だけ」. In fact, the ordering of multiple 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.

  • この販売機だけでは五百円玉使えない
    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.

  • 小林さんからだけは返事来なかった
    A reply has not come from only Kobayashi-san.

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」

Vocabulary

  1. この - this (abbr. of これの)
  2. 乗車券 【じょう・しゃ・けん】 - passenger ticket
  3. 発売 【はつ・ばい】 - sale
  4. 当日 【とう・じつ】 - that very day
  5. 有効 【ゆう・こう】 - effective
  6. アンケート - survey
  7. 対象 【たい・しょう】 - target
  8. 大学生 【だい・がく・せい】 - college student

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」

Vocabulary

  1. これ - this
  2. ある (u-verb) - to exist (inanimate)
  3. 見る 【み・る】 (ru-verb) - to see
  4. 今日 【きょう】 - today
  5. 忙しい 【いそが・しい】 (i-adj) - busy
  6. 朝ご飯 【あさ・ご・はん】 - breakfast
  7. 食べる 【た・べる】 (ru-verb) - to eat
  8. 全部 【ぜん・ぶ】 - everything
  9. 買う 【か・う】 (u-verb) - to buy
  10. ううん - no (casual)
  11. 何【なに】 - what
  12. もらう - to receive
  13. 頑張る 【がん・ば・る】 (u-verb) - to try one's best
  14. こう - (things are) this way
  15. なる (u-verb) - to become
  16. 逃げる 【に・げる】 (ru-verb) - to escape; to run away
  17. もう - already
  18. 腐る 【くさ・る】 (u-verb) - to rot; to spoil
  19. 捨てる 【す・てる】 (ru-verb) - to throw away

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.

  • これしかない
    There's nothing but this.

The following is incorrect.

  • これしかある
    (Should be using 「だけ」 instead)

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.

Examples

  • 今日忙しくて朝ご飯しか食べられなかった
    Today was busy and couldn't eat anything but breakfast.

Notice that unlike 「だけ」, it is necessary to finish off the sentence.

  • 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.
  3. 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.

  • 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. もう腐っているから、捨てるしかないよ。
    It's rotten already so there's nothing to do but throw it out.

「っきゃ」, an alternative to 「しか」

Vocabulary

  1. これ - this
  2. 買う 【か・う】 (u-verb) - to buy
  3. ある (u-verb) - to exist (inanimate)
  4. こう - (things are) this way
  5. なる (u-verb) - to become
  6. もう - already
  7. やる (u-verb) - to do

「っきゃ」 is another version of 「しか」 that means essentially the same thing and works exactly the same way. Just substitute 「しか」 with 「っきゃ」 and you're good to go. This version is a bit stronger than 「しか」 in emphasis but it's not used nearly as often so I wouldn't worry about it too much. I briefly cover it here just in case you do run into this expression.

Examples

  1. これ買うっきゃない
    There's nothing but to buy this!
  2. こうなったら、もうやるっきゃない
    If things turn out like this, there nothing to do but to just do it!

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

Vocabulary

  1. 何 【なに/なん】 - what
  2. おばさん - middle-aged lady
  3. 嫌 【いや】 (na-adj) disagreeable; unpleasant
  4. 崇 【たかし】 - Takashi (first name)
  5. ~君 【~くん】 - name suffix
  6. 漫画 【まん・が】 - comic book
  7. 読む 【よ・む】 (u-verb) - to read
  8. かっこ悪い 【かっこ・わる・い】 (i-adj) - unattractive; uncool
  9. 彼 【かれ】 - he; boyfriend
  10. 麻雀【マー・ジャン】 - mahjong
  11. 直美 【なお・み】 - Naomi (first name)
  12. 遊ぶ 【あそ・ぶ】 (u-verb) - to play
  13. 最近 【さい・きん】 - recent; lately
  14. 仕事 【し・ごと】 - job

「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.

  • 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:

  • いやだ。おばさんばっかり
    Eww. It's nothing but obasan.

Examples

  • 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.

  1. 麻雀ばかりです。
    He's nothing but mahjong. (He does nothing but play mahjong.)
  2. 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!
  3. 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

Vocabulary

  1. 過ぎる 【す・ぎる】 (ru-verb) - to exceed; to pass
  2. 食べる 【た・べる】 (ru-verb) - to eat
  3. 飲む 【の・む】 (u-verb) - to drink
  4. 太る 【ふと・る】 (u-verb) - to become fatter
  5. 静か 【しず・か】 (na-adj) - quiet
  6. 大きい 【おお・きい】 (i-adj) - big
  7. 面白い 【おも・しろ・い】 (i-adj) - interesting
  8. もったいない (i-adj) - wasteful
  9. 情けない 【なさ・けない】 (i-adj) - pitiable
  10. 危ない 【あぶ・ない】 (i-adj) - dangerous
  11. 少ない 【すく・ない】 (i-adj) - few
  12. 佐藤 【さ・とう】 - Satou (last name)
  13. 料理 【りょう・り】 - cooking; cuisine; dish
  14. 上手 【じょう・ず】 (na-adj) - skillful
  15. また - again
  16. お酒 【お・さけ】 - alcohol
  17. 気 【き】 - mood; intent
  18. つける - to attach
  19. 気をつける - (expression) to be careful
  20. トランク - trunk
  21. 入る 【はい・る】 (u-verb) - to enter
  22. 罠 【わな】 - trap
  23. 時間 【じ・かん】 - time
  24. 足りる 【た・りる】 (ru-verb) - to be sufficient
  25. 何【なに】 - what
  26. 出来る 【で・き・る】 (ru-verb) - to be able to do
  27. 彼 【かれ】 - he; boyfriend
  28. 彼女 【かの・じょ】 - she; girlfriend
  29. 昨晩 【さく・ばん】 - last night
  30. こと - event, matter
  31. 全然 【ぜん・ぜん】 - not at all (when used with negative)
  32. 覚える 【おぼ・える】 (ru-verb) - to memorize
  33. それ - that

すぎる」 is a regular ru-verb written 「過ぎる」 meaning, "to exceed". 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, 「食べすぎる」 means "to eat too much" and 「飲みすぎる」 means "to drink too much". For adjectives, you just attach it to the end after you remove the last 「い」 from the i-adjectives (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, this grammar always results in a regular ru-verb.

Using 「すぎる」 to indicate there's too much of something
  • For verbs: First change the verb to the stem and attach 「すぎる」.
    Examples
    1. 食べ食べすぎる
    2. 太りすぎる
  • For na-adjectives: Attach 「すぎる」. For i-adjectives, remove the last 「い」 first before attaching 「すぎる」.
    Examples
    1. 静か静かすぎる
    2. 大き大きすぎる
  • For negative verbs and adjectives: Replace the last 「い」 from 「ない」 with 「さ」 and then attach 「すぎる
    Examples
    1. 食べな食べな食べなさすぎる
    2. 面白くな面白くな面白くなさすぎる
  • I-adjectives that end in 「ない」 which incorporate the negative 「無い」 such as 「もったいない」(勿体無い) or 「情けない」(情け無い) follow the third rule.
    Examples
    1. もったいなもったいなもったいなさすぎる
    2. 情けな情けな情けなさすぎる
  • Most regular i-adjectives such as 「危ない」 or 「少ない」 follow the regular rule (rule 2).
    Examples
    1. 危な危なすぎる
    2. 少な少なすぎる

Examples

  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).

It is also common to change 「すぎる」 into its stem and use it as a noun.

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

B:それ飲みすぎだよ。
B: That's drinking too much.

Adding the 「も」 particle to express excessive amounts

Vocabulary

  1. 昨日【きのう】 - yesterday
  2. 電話 【でん・わ】 - phone
  3. ~回 【~かい】 - counter for number of times
  4. する (exception) - to do
  5. 試験 【し・けん】 - exam
  6. ため - for the sake/benefit of
  7. ~時間 【~じ・かん】 - counter for span of hour(s)
  8. 勉強 【べん・きょう】 - study
  9. 今年 【こ・とし】 - this year
  10. キロ - kilo
  11. 太る 【ふと・る】 (u-verb) - to become fatter

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.

  • 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.

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

Vocabulary

  1. 程 【ほど】 - degree, extent
  2. 今日 【きょう】 - today
  3. 天気 【てん・き】 - weather
  4. それ - that
  5. 暑い 【あつ・い】 (i-adj) - hot
  6. 寝る 【ね・る】 (ru-verb) - to sleep
  7. 時間 【じ・かん】 - time
  8. ある (u-verb) - to exist (inanimate)
  9. 忙しい 【いそが・しい】 (i-adj) - busy
  10. 韓国 【かん・こく】 - Korea
  11. 料理 【りょう・り】 - cooking; cuisine; dish
  12. 食べる 【たべ・る】 (ru-verb) - to eat
  13. おいしい (i-adj) - tasty
  14. なる (u-verb) - to become
  15. 歩く 【ある・く】 (u-verb) - to walk
  16. 迷う 【まよ・う】 (u-verb) - to get lost
  17. 勉強 【べん・きょう】 - study
  18. 頭 【あたま】 - head
  19. いい (i-adj) - good
  20. ハードディスク - hard disk
  21. 容量 【よう・りょう】 - capacity
  22. 大きい 【おお・きい】(i-adj) - big
  23. もっと - more
  24. たくさん - a lot (amount)
  25. 曲 【きょく】 - tune
  26. 保存 【ほ・ぞん】 - save
  27. 出来る 【で・き・る】 (ru-verb) - to be able to do
  28. 航空券 【こう・くう・けん】 - plane ticket
  29. 安い 【やす・い】 (i-adj) - cheap
  30. 限る 【かぎ・る】 (u-verb) - to limit
  31. 文章 【ぶん・しょう】 - sentence; writing
  32. 短い 【みじか・い】 (i-adj) - short
  33. 簡単 【かん・たん】 (na-adj) - simple
  34. 良い 【よ・い】 (i-adj) - good

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. 今日天気それほど暑くない
    Today's weather is not hot 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]

  • 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. The example uses the 「ば」 conditional form, but the 「たら」 conditional will work as well. Since this is a general statement, the contextual 「なら」 conditional will never work. The decided 「と」 conditional won't work very well here either since it may not always be true depending on the 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.

For na-adjectives, since you can't use the 「ば」 conditional you have to resort to the 「なら」 conditional. Because it sounds 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.

  • 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

Vocabulary

  1. 高い 【たか・い】 (i-adj) - high; tall; expensive
  2. 低い 【ひく・い】 (i-adj) - short
  3. 穏やか 【おだ・やか】 (na-adj) - calm, peaceful
  4. この - this (abbr. of これの)
  5. ビル - building
  6. 何 【なに/なん】 - what
  7. 犬 【いぬ】 - dog
  8. 聴覚 【ちょう・かく】 - sense of hearing
  9. 敏感 【びん・かん】 (na-adj) - sensitive
  10. 人間 【にん・げん】 - human
  11. 比べる 【くら・べる】 (ru-verb) - to compare
  12. はるか - far more
  13. 上 【うえ】 - above

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 us 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」
  • For na-adjectives: Just attach 「さ」 to the end of the na-adjective
    Example
    1. 穏やか穏やか

The result becomes a regular noun.

Examples

  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.