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I came accross the following multiple choice question in my Japanese textbook:

母に(  )どうしても本当のことを言わないといけないと思う。

The possible answers are:

  1. 限り
  2. ばかり
  3. 限って
  4. だけは

I chose 1. 限り, because I thought that に限り can mark a special case or exception ("specially to one's mother, I think one should say the truth"), but it turns out that the correct answer is だけは. Why? how does だけ work right after the particle に?

In my research I found a Q&A post that deals with the same exercise and it seems to contain a thorough explanation of it. However, as it is written in a mixture of Chinese and Japanese I couldn't grasp it even though I tried reading through the Japanese bits. According to that post, one can generally replace に限り by だけ, but not the other way around. Is that so?

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〜に限り is used to specify a condition for some benefit specially given to people (or some other entities) that satisfy that condition. Being a ます-stem conjunctive (連用中止), it's more suitable for writing or formal speech than for informal speech.

先着十名様に限り、記念品を差し上げます。

Although the mother might benefit from hearing the truth, the sentence itself is about something the speaker feels they have to do, not a special favor they are willing to do for the mother. Besides, it's not common for the part before に限り to directly identify someone like 母 does.

〜にだけ and 〜だけに are practically interchangeable. See this related question. However, I personally feel 〜にだけは (i.e. the correct answer) sounds slightly more natural than 〜だけには in this sentence.

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