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I was thinking today of how I would describe things in Japanese. One of these things was 'He's just a boy!', which I more or less worked out to be 「かれがしょうねんですしかよ!」which I THINK is correct, but still feels sorta 'off' to me. Something about the final noun using the particle 「しか」 AFTER stating the polite form of it.

Can't really put my finger on it, just feels like something's incorrect about it, thus I thought to ask.

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    He's just a boy -> Are you trying to say something like "He's just a little boy" "He's only a child"? You could say it like {彼は/その子は/(name)は}まだ子供だ or ほんの子供だ but it'd depend on the context. Can you provide some context? – Chocolate Oct 15 '16 at 2:24
  • I was trying for a bit of a grammer test to find the literal translation of the phrase 'hes just a boy', like in 'You can't send him off to war, please! He's still just a boy!!!!!'. Tho, i won't pretend like i know japanese culture enough to find the proper equivalence. ;D – Tirous Oct 15 '16 at 2:52
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He's just a boy. He's still just a boy!

I would say...

  • {[name]は / この・その・あの子は}{まだ or/and ほんの}子供{だ/です}。

or maybe...

  • {[name]は / この・その・あの子は}{まだ or/and ほんの}子供でしかない/ありません}*。

*As stated in the other answer, しか is used with a negative word/phrase: 「しか~~ない」(= nothing but = only).

  • I haven't seen しか come after で before. Could you explain more about the grammar please? Which で is this? Thanks. – user3856370 Oct 16 '16 at 18:39
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    @user3856370 I'm pretty sure the で is the continuative form(連用形) of the assertive auxiliary (断定の助動詞) だ. 子供 ≂子供ある+しか~ない⇒子供 (は)ない+しか⇒子供しかない – Chocolate Oct 16 '16 at 23:03
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しか is used the negative forms of words, usually in a way to indicate the lack of anything else. To use しか, you probably want to phrase it like

しょうねんにしか見えない。 (Looks only like a boy)

(Awkward phrasing in English I know...)

  • I know it's not as accurate, but maybe a translation that gets across the meaning better would be something like, "All I can see (when I look at him) is a boy," or "I can only see a boy." – Kurausukun Oct 15 '16 at 1:57
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I would say:
彼 は ただの 少年 です。
kare wa tada no shōnen desu.

しか has a different meaning and usage.
According to "A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar", page 398:
しか: particle which marks an element X when nothing but X makes the expressed proposition true.

And usually しか is used after a noun, not after です.

です usually comes at the end of the sentence.

  • But 彼はただの少年です means "He's just an ordinary/common boy"... – Chocolate Oct 15 '16 at 5:05

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