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俺は自分が生き残ることしか考えていなかった‌.
the only thing I thought ‌about was surviving.‌
ore ha jibun ga ikinokoru koto shika kangaeteinakatta‌.

I don't really understand why in Japanese it uses 考えて in the negative, since that in English would mean the opposite of what it is trying to say (the only thing I wasn't thinking, was about surviving). Why is that?

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    Do you understand the ...しか...ない grammar structure? This is the key to why this is translated in the positive.
    – A.Ellett
    Jul 28, 2021 at 19:49
  • 2
    I didn’t think anything but … is a negative sentence.
    – aguijonazo
    Jul 29, 2021 at 1:38

1 Answer 1

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I was hoping someone would find what I haven't been able to find: namely a duplicate of this question. But the only questions/answers I can find are related to various particular scenarios.

There are various constructions similar to ...しか...ない in Japanese. Some call these negative polarity items. The linked answer gives some other examples in both English and Japanese that may help you wrap you mind around the concept. And as @aguijonazo mentioned in the comments, this particular construction can at times be reworded into a corresponding negative construction in English.

But, here I'd just like to mention the following: There are various ways of saying only in Japanese. The ...しか...ない construct is one of them.

I eat only apples.

りんごしか食べません。

I only read Japanese novels.

日本語の小説しかよまない。

I could only get there by train.

電車でしかいけなった。

しか is applied to the noun phrase (after a particle if there is one) that is being restricted. In English, the translations can be a bit more lose.

Other ways of expressing only in Japanese can be formed using だけ and ばかり.

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