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Is there any nuance difference between having しか before or after the verb? If not, which is more commonly used/sounds more natural?

I get a feeling like これしか食べない translate to don't eat anything but this while
これ食べるしかない translate to no choice but to eat this

but I'm not sure why this is the case grammatically.

5

There is a difference between the two, and your guess is spot on. As for why, しか, much like だけ, modifies the word that comes before it (verbs, nouns, and some particles like に、で and まで).

これしか
nothing but this

食べるしか
nothing but eating

Which means that your translation was correct:

これしか食べない
to only eat this

これを食べるしかない
we have no choice but to eat this.

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  • 4
    Perhaps more literally, to try to illustrate the use of しか: これしか食べない = "eat nothing but this" / これ食べるしかない = "there's nothing [to do] but to eat this". – Eiríkr Útlendi Oct 23 '20 at 16:19
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Yes, you're totally right.

動詞辞書形+しかない
動詞辞書形に接続して他の方法や選択肢がなく、その他の可能性もないという意味を表します。

means you have no choice but do sth as in

寂しいけど我慢するしかない。Have no choice but stand the loneliness.

ここまで来たら、もうやるしかない。Things all happened, and I have no choice but do it.

名詞(+助詞)+しか~ない
名詞や数量詞の後について、物事が限定的であることを表します。話者の不満や残念な感情を含みます。

means only as in

出発まであと10分しかない。There's only 10 min before departure.

and

財布の中には500円しかない。 There's only 500 Japanese yen in the pocket.

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