One of my teachers gave us some プリント about the uses of ばかり, which is based apparently on the 新完全マスターN3文法 book. I have read her examples and the book's but I can't figure out if there is any difference between てばかりいる and ばかりだ. The book says they mean "always do ~ only, do nothing but ~, there is nothing but ~. Often used to express disapproval" and "repeatedly or continuously ~,without doing other things. Usually used in a critical way" respectively, which clears up basically nothing for me.

I found this question: plain form + bakari vs. te form + bakari, but they don't really explain the meaning of 辞書形 + ばかり with verbs like the one used in the question (泣く). I understand the nuance when verbs of change are used or it means "the only thing left is...", but not in other cases.

I also read this page: https://maggiesensei.com/2013/07/02/%E3%81%B0%E3%81%8B%E3%82%8A-bakari/ and got the impression that maybe ばかりだ is used for when something is happening repeatedly at a certain moment, but not necessarily always, and てばかりいる is for habits or actions that happen often, but I'm not certain at all.

1 Answer 1


Although your understanding is not totally off, those forms do not necessarily mean different things. In most dictionaries, the meaning of the ばかり is condensed in the single definition of 'only'.

Consider the following pairs of examples:

  1. その女の子は泣いてばかりで会話にならなかった.
  2. その女の子は泣くばかりで会話にならなかった.

Both mean The girl kept crying and it was impossible to have a conversation. 泣く refers to the continuous crying. One thing is 泣くばかり sounds more strongly 'do nothing but crying'.

  1. その男の子はスマホを見てばかりで勉強しない.
  2. その男の子はスマホを見るばかりで勉強しない.

見る/見て would be understood as habitual activity. But like above 見るばかり sounds '(literally) do nothing but watching smartphone', which is unlikely and thus less natural.

  1. 自分は今年90になるのであとは死ぬばかりだ.

Here 死んでばかり is not possible because death is a one-time event.

So for expressions that talk about the action/event of a particular moment (2 and 5 above), 辞書形 + ばかり works better meaning 'do nothing else except - ', but this does not necessarily make て+ばかり unnatural (1 above).

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