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誰もが平等に死んで、自分では誰一人救えなかった。 人間なんてそんなものだと諦めるしか、目の前の恐怖を抑えられなかった

My TL:
Everyone died equally, I could not save anyone.
I could do nothing other than giving up thinking "Human beings are like that."
I could not suppress the fear in front of me.

How does しか work in this sentence?
I think I understand the general meaning of the sentence but I am lost grammatically.

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I would say this sentence is a bit awkward. This sentence is a lot easier to understand if it's written like this:

人間なんてそんなものだと諦めることでしか、目の前の恐怖を抑えられなかった。
It was only by giving up, thinking "That's how human beings are", that I could suppress the fear in front of me.

Compare with these simpler sentences:

  • 練習することで強くなれる。 By practicing, I can become stronger.
  • 練習することでしか強くなれない。 Only by practicing can I become stronger.
  • 練習するしか強くなれない。 (the same as above, but looks a bit weird to me)
  • Your second example sounds a lot better, I understand it immediately. Anyway, isn't と諦める=To resign to? I was looking online and found "運命と諦める"=accept your destiny – Splikie Mar 3 '16 at 13:13
  • Unfortunately, My English is poor and I'm not sure how "to resign myself" is different from "to give up" in this context. You can always edit the English in my answer to make it more natural :-) – naruto Mar 3 '16 at 13:53
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しか is a postpositional particle and it is always used with ない which means "negative". And it means "just have to" , "have no choice but", and "have nothing but" etc.

For example. 彼は英語しか話せない(He can only speak English.), この図書館には日本語の本しかない(This library has nothing but books written in Japanese.)

I think 人間なんてそんなものだと諦めるしか、目の前の恐怖を抑えられなかった means that I could do nothing other than giving up by thinking "Human beings are like that." in order to suppress the fear in front of me.

  • I still do not understand it. I know しか comes with ない and means something like "Nothing but".Why are you using "in order to"? I understand perfectly the other examples you made, but my sentence is still unclear to me. – Splikie Mar 3 '16 at 11:41
  • My English may be bad. You use "I could not suppress the fear in front of me" but The person could suppress the fear in front of he(or her) by thinking like "Human beings are like that.". If my English is incorrect, Please correct. – Yuuichi Tam Mar 3 '16 at 11:50
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This is an interesting question, since when I read the sentence leading up to "しか", I expected a "なかった" or "できなかった" to follow. So I think the form "[verb]しか" here implies that a negation should follow.

The object of the verb "抑えられなかった", however, of course is "目の前の恐怖", and "諦めるしか抑えられなかった" does not really make sense. So I would have to bet that this is a stylistic way of saying:

諦めるしか、目の前の恐怖を抑える方法がなかった

I must admit, I was a bit confused about the meaning until @choco's formulation in comments

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    「~~と諦めることによってしか、目の前の恐怖を抑えられなかった。」とか「目の前の恐怖を抑えるためには、~~と諦めるしかなかった。」っていう感じの意味です – Chocolate Mar 3 '16 at 12:06
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    諦めるしかできず、目の前の恐怖を抑えられなかった and 諦めるしか、目の前の恐怖を抑えられなかった are different. – Yuuichi Tam Mar 3 '16 at 12:11
  • @choco and YuuichiTam, thanks, I can only agree. – Amani Kilumanga Mar 3 '16 at 12:34

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