How would you use しか and ありませんでした together?

  • How wouldn't you? – istrasci Apr 25 '19 at 23:55

If you're just looking for a usage example:

Since I didn't have anything but eggplant, I decided to make baba ghanoush.

  • The ~しか followed by a negative verb means "don't [VERB] (any) but/except for ~".

  • The ありませんでした just means "there wasn't (any)", or "(someone) didn't have (any)", depending on context.

Another example using しか:

Since [he] doesn't eat anything but apples, [he] got constipated.

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    Out of curiosity, is なすび more common somewhere? I only ever hear なす (spoken by myself and others) up here in Hokkaido. – virmaior Apr 26 '19 at 6:57
  • @virmaior, I honestly can't recall where I picked that one up. I have a dim recollection that it might have been from a friend of mine who grew up in Kōbe, but I'm not certain. FWIW, I've lived in Iwate, Tochigi, and Tokyo. – Eiríkr Útlendi Apr 26 '19 at 15:56
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    「なすび」って西日本(関西?)っぽいですよね。(たぶん) – Chocolate Apr 26 '19 at 17:13
  • @virmaior, chocolate -- amusingly, Nihon Jiten's entry list for なすび suggests that this is 関西弁, 博多弁, and ... 北海道弁. – Eiríkr Útlendi Apr 26 '19 at 22:53
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    amusing indeed. I guess I would say being here that 北海道弁 is more 田舎伝説 than something we hear much of in the cities, so I guess it's not surprising in the larger cities to hear people using なす – virmaior Apr 26 '19 at 23:42

しか is used along with negative verbs to express "only", in a negative way. In English it could be translated as "nothing but". For example:

昨日行ったレストランには、ラーメンしかありませんでした。 (There was nothing but ramen at the restaurant we went yesterday).

In many cases, this negative pattern has the nuance that there should be more things beyond that "only" thing expressed with しか. When the speaker says しか, she or he expected to be other things ore more things. In the example above, the speaker would expect that there were available more types of dishes besides ramen, but there was only ramen and not anything else. This feeling of being less than expected is particularly true when using しか with amounts or quantities, such as in:

前に住んでいた村は家が4軒しかありませんでした。(There were nothing but 4 houses in the village I used to live).

Again, a village with barely 4 houses is way smaller than expected of a village of a regular size, hence the use of しか.

Note that the literal, objective meaning of しか with negative verbs is the same than that of だけ with positive verbs. However だけ does not carry that nuance of "less or fewer" than expected.

昨日行ったレストランには、ラーメンだけありました。 (There was only ramen at the restaurant we went yesterday).

前に住んでいた村は家が4軒だけありました。 (There were only 4 houses in the village I used to live).

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