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If ばかり could mean approximately; about; and could also mean only; merely; nothing but;, then how should we know if this sentence 5000円ばかりもっている。 means:

  1. I have about 5000 yen.

or

  1. I have only 5000 yen.
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  • 1
    I've never heard of it meaning "about".
    – istrasci
    Jun 28, 2011 at 2:44

2 Answers 2

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  1. ばかり after an amount or a quantity means 'approximately', 'about':

    5000円ばかりもっている。→ I have about 5,000 yen.

    僕はここ3年ばかりあの人に会わない。→ I haven't seen him for about three years.

  2. The sense of 'only', 'just' works after a verb:

    列車はたった今ついたばかりです。→ The train has just arrived here.

    or a noun/pronoun (not indicating a quantity):

    あの人は勉強 ばかりしていて... → All he does is study

Note that ばかりに, ばかりか etc. also exist and work differently.

As @Scott just pointed out, in your example, you would use だけ or しか (+negative) to mean "only".

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If the verb is past tense it means "just" happened. If the verb is -te iru it means only.

There are about 3 or 4 other uses that arent used as much. bakarini nado...

× 5000円ばかりもっている。 doesnt sound right.

○ 5000円だけ持ってる

○ 5000円しか持ってない

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    5000円ばかりもっている。 sounds perfectly right. It means "I have as much as 5000 yen."
    – user458
    Nov 15, 2011 at 2:41

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