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I found this sentence from Death Note with it's translation:

"これなら私はあなたを殺せないし、あなたからしか警察はノートを奪えない。"
"Now I can’t kill you and the police can only recover the Death Note from you."

Why is 奪えない translated as "can recover" and not "can't recover" since it's in the negative form? Does it have something to do with これなら?

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The translation is not wrong.

The key of your question is 「しか」 and "only".

The usage of 「しか」 combined with negatives (here, 「ない」 in 「奪えない」) translates into "only". Here, as 「奪えない」 is 「奪える」 plus 「ない」, 「あなたからしか警察はノートを奪えない」 is equivalent to something like 「警察はノートを奪える only あなたから」.

So its translation would be "police can recover the Death Note only from you," which is equivalent to the original translation.


「これなら」 is translated to "Now" in your sentence and has nothing to do with your question. The literal interpretation of 「これなら」 is "if this"; or "if the situation is like this". In this context the situation is already determined to "this", so the interpretation is more like "Now that the situation is like this", which is condensed into "Now" in your sentence.

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    I'd just like to add that for English speakers, it can help to think of しか as having a meaning similar to "save" or "except". This preserves the negative and removes the scope ambiguity the English word "only" has (though it doesn't flow as naturally). For example, the OP's statement can be translated as, "...the police cannot recover it from anyone except you.
    – G-Cam
    Jan 18 '17 at 17:56

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