I just learned some stuff about the use of だけ and now I wonder, if I want to say

"Just me and a friend did this" , could I use だけ to express this?

If so, how would I have to use it? And when would I have to refrain to using 一人で?

This also raises the question whether 一人で could modify a verbal expression related to a subject which represents multiple persons?

1a) これは私と友達がするだけだった。 1b) 私と友達だけはこれをした。

2a) これは私が一人でした。 2b) これは私と友達が一人でした。

I assume that 1b) is pretty ungrammatical, but I wanted to ask about it nevertheless because it is stated in my textbook that だけ can be attached to nouns.

This is in different context though, like here: 休みは日曜日だけです。

I might be digging too deep now, but I wonder whether だけ and 一人で are one of these things which don't modify a specific sentence element, but rather the whole sentence.

Unfortunately I don't know what these are called in English terminology; in my German linguistics lessons they were called "partikel".

I could give an example here:

"Of course I can do this."

"Eventually the machine crashed."

  • What is the example in the last sentence supposed to be an example of? ("Partikel" would probably be "particle", but I'm not seeing the connection with the example.)
    – Joel Rees
    Jul 19, 2017 at 10:16
  • It is not a particle in sense of は、を、が and so on. It is what it is, unfortunately I just dont know what the name is in english grammar ^^ Thats why I showed what I mean ^^
    – Narktor
    Jul 20, 2017 at 9:13
  • This Wikipedia page may help: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_particles
    – Joel Rees
    Jul 20, 2017 at 13:21

3 Answers 3


To avoid confusion as to whether it's "you and friend(s)" or "you and one other friend", you may want to phrase it this way:

Only a friend and I did this.

Assuming the context of you showing that you worked on this directly, you're implicitly stating that you're a part of this group because 友達と = 'with a friend' or 'with friends', but also 二人だけで is explicit about two people, so if there's you, there's only one other person which is your (one) friend. This also probably sounds the most natural.


We use 1b as the meaning of "Just me and a friend did this".

You said だけ can be attached to nouns but it isn't correct. だけ can be attached to other parts of speech.

You should distinguish だけ and 一人で. だけ means "only", "just" and 一人で means "by oneself", "alone".

2b doesn't make sense because you and your friend are two, so you can say これは私と友達が(で)二人でした.

  • これは私と友達が (で) 二人でした. Thanks, but what about this optional で in brackets? It's probably the particle indicating the means? It sounds a bit weird: "Concerning this, We did this alone with me and my friend.". But if this can be observed in japanese then its good to know :D
    – Narktor
    Jul 20, 2017 at 9:11
  • で is also used in sentences like that. They are the same meaning. で in this sentence may have a bit nuance like "do with a friend together". Jul 20, 2017 at 10:26

The best way I have been able to translate 「だけ」 has been to refer to limits.

「一人」 means "one person", and you'd probably be best leaving at that.

I think I have heard some people using 「一人で」 in plural, in the sense that the English "alone" can be used in plural, (clarification) thus

We did this alone.

can mean "We did this by ourselves." (It can also mean "We did this one thing." That's not really current usage, however.)

(end clarification) But I'm not sure I heard it right, and I'm not sure that the people I heard weren't using it in a non-standard sense.


When there are just two, all alone, you can use the expression 「二人」 or 「二人きり」。

(end afterthought)


I checked with both of my kids (college senior and high school senior) and they agree that 「一人で」 is not used in the plural sense. See my later comments on the "individually" meaning.

(end clarification)

(further afterthought)

"Of course" and "eventually" can be interpreted to apply to a whole English sentence, but you really shouldn't do that. Apply to the verb when in doubt, and move it there when you need to be exact. Using your examples,

I can, of course, do this.

The machine eventually crashed.

Now, 「だけ」 does have some uses that may sound odd, but don't go looking too far away. In other words, if you think it's modifying the whole sentence, you're misreading it.

(end further afterthought)

Trying to interpret your four sentences,

1a) これは私と友達がするだけだった。

This almost sounds to me like you might have been trying to say


or, "This was something that my friends and I just had to do." You probably did not mean that. Also, consider, 「やるしかなかった」。

Instead, you might have said


(something we had to do ourselves), or


(something we had to do by ourselves)

Your second sentence,

1b) 私と友達だけはこれをした。

comes out as

Speaking only of my friends and me, we did this.

I think you wanted to use 「で」 instead of 「は」。


But I'm also thinking I have heard


Let's see what our Japanese friends who hang out around here have to say about that.


2a) これは私が一人でした。

Ouch. Did you mean past of 「です」 or past of 「する」?

「やる」 is not a perfect replacement for 「する」、 but it comes in handy in places like this. (And it's a bit preferred over plain 「する」 in some dialects.)

Unless I misunderstand my Japanese, 「でした」 in (2a) will be read as the past tense of 「です」、 so it will be read,

In this, I was alone.

However, given what that means, it can and is used as a substitute for


so it doesn't seem like a big deal, but misunderstanding what is happening there can trip you up.

And, finally,

2b) これは私と友達が一人でした。

You really want to use 「しました」 or 「やった」 when saying it this way.

(further afterthought)

But you really don't want to use 「一人」 here.

(end further afterthought)


And you want to consider the "individual" meaning, as well. 「私たち一人一人」 is "we, individually". So, even if the plural sense has become accepted as it has in the English word "alone",


would more likely be read "each, individually" than "only us".

(end afterthought)

But try this on for size:



My friends and I were united in this.

And this one:



This was something I and a friend did.

One friend.

Okay, if you and some friends and some others did "this", you can use 「や」 and say,




The limit is actually implicit in 「と」。 In other words,


is already read as an exclusive "and", so you only use 「だけ」 to emphasize the exclusion:


  • 日本に一人で行く (I am going to japan alone/by my self) i'm not sure if that's what you meant you were unsure about. But you can't say "We are alone" with 一人, I guess Jul 19, 2017 at 12:37
  • I was surprised the first time I thought I heard someone say 「一人」 in the plural sense. but I am pretty sure I have heard several people use it that way. I'm just not sure it's generally accepted usage.
    – Joel Rees
    Jul 19, 2017 at 12:55
  • I remember once I said 「日本に一人で行く」 then I said "ops" and corrected myself 「日本に自分で行く」. My native friend told me that both are right, and the first is even more common, at least in his opinion Jul 19, 2017 at 13:03
  • I'm not an english native speaker so I cannot tell, but "I am alone in the world" is singular right? And "We are alone in this room" is plural, I think that 一人で just works for the singular example Jul 19, 2017 at 13:04
  • "We did this alone," meaning "we and only we" is perfectly valid English. The question is whether the same transformation has occurred in Japanese with 「一人」。
    – Joel Rees
    Jul 19, 2017 at 14:23

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