In this sentence:


Which I interpreted literally as

"If you put in useless things, nothing but useless things aren't able to be taken out."

It seems that a more accurate translation would be something like

"If you put useless things in, you can only get useless things out."

My question here is, wouldn't the translation be more indicative of a regular, non negated potential inflection as opposed to a potential negative?

  • 5
    Have you learned how しか is used?
    – Leebo
    Apr 11, 2021 at 14:40
  • I understand now. Thank you. Didn't know the two were connected.
    – johnrabbit
    Apr 11, 2021 at 15:22

1 Answer 1


しか, which is seen in this sentence, works together with a negative verb ending. It does not negate the verb, in this case, but strengthens a feeling of 'you can only do ...'.

  • I like to think of Xしか is meaning 'with the exception of X' then the negation of the verb makes sense. Apr 11, 2021 at 20:59
  • @user3856370 could you elaborate on that idea? Having a little trouble understanding what you mean.
    – johnrabbit
    Apr 12, 2021 at 16:49
  • So for example, だけ works like you would expect the word 'only' to work, i.e. 牛肉だけ食べる ( I eat beef only). But with しか you would say 牛肉しか食べない. The word 'only' doesn't really work here for しか because this does not mean "I don't eat beef only'. It means "With the exception of beef I don't eat (anything)". All I'm saying is that "with the exception of" is the negated equivalent of "only". This way of thinking helped me when I learnt about しか but if it doesn't help you then no worries. You'll find your own way to rationalise it. Apr 12, 2021 at 21:09
  • Makes sense to me. Thank you for your reply.
    – johnrabbit
    Apr 13, 2021 at 4:22

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