465 - 限り (as much as possible)

In the previous N2 lesson, we saw how 限り (かぎり) can mean "as long as." For example, we saw:

体が丈夫な限り、働き続けるつもりです。
からだ が じょうぶな かぎり、 はたらき つづける つもり です。
I intend to continue working for as long as my body is healthy.
Literally: “body + が + healthy / durable + 限り, + continue to work + intend to (=つもり) + です.”

In that lesson, I also mentioned that 限り has a wide variety of uses and meanings.

In this lesson, we'll be looking at how it can mean something along the lines of "as much as possible."


JLPT N2: 限り (as much as possible)

Let's start with a nice, romantic example:

テントから出て空を見上げると、見渡す限り無数の星が輝いていた。
テント から でて そら を みあげる と、 みわたす かぎり むすう の ほし が かがやいていた。
When I walked out of the tent and looked up at the sky, everywhere I looked, it was filled with countless stars.
Literally: “tent + from + exit (and) + sky + を + look up + と, + look out over + 限り + countless + の + stars + が + were shining.”

Maybe that sentence is a bit intimidating, so let's just look at the second half:

見渡す限り無数の星が輝いていた。
みわたす かぎり むすう の ほし が かがやいていた。
Everywhere I looked, [the sky] was filled with countless stars.
Literally: “look out over + 限り + countless + の + stars + が + were shining.”

The phrase 見渡す限り (みわたすかぎり) is actually so common that it has its own dictionary entries. Typically such entries will say that it means "as far as the eye can see." And that is a correct translation... sometimes. Only, I didn't use that phrase in this example because it makes more sense when looking out over a landscape or something (e.g. "there were orange trees for as far as the eye could see").

Anyways, we have the verb 見渡す (みわたす), which means "to look out over (e.g. the sea)", "to take in a view of."

When we add 限り, here meaning "as much as possible," the meaning is something along the lines of "everywhere one looks" or, in certain cases, "as far as the eye can see."


Another common verb that comes before this usage of 限り is できる (can do; to be able to do).

For example...

できる限りのことはした。あとは祈るだけだ。
できる かぎり の こと は した。 あと は いのる だけ だ。
I've done everything I can. All that’s left now is to pray.
Literally: “can do + 限り + の + thing (=こと) + は + did. + after / remainder + は + pray + only + だ.”
Note: Depending on the situation, "We've... we can.." might be more appropriate.

If できる means "can do," then できる限り means something like "everything one can do," "as much as one can do."

It may also help to think of this 限り as meaning "to the limit" or "to the max."

[Something] 限り
[Something] to the limit

Speaking of which, maybe we should look at the grammatical construction stuff...


When meaning "as much as possible," 限り will only come after a plain present tense verb (=V る) or a noun followed by の (=NOUN + の). So:

V る限り

見渡す限り
みわたす かぎり
everywhere one looks; as far as the eye can see
Literally: "look out over + as much as possible / to the limit"

NOUN 限り

限り
いのち の かぎり
for all of one's life; as long as one lives
Literally: "life + の + as much as possible / to the limit"


Let's see a full sentence with a noun coming before 限り:

私は限り夫を愛し続けます。
わたし は いのち の かぎり おっと を あい しつづけます。
I will continue loving my husband for as long as I live.
Literally: “I + は + life + の + 限り + husband + を + continue loving.”


Last but not least, we have one exceptional use of this 限り, which is the word あらんかぎり.

This idiomatic phrase also means something like "as much as possible." I like to think that it's a weird form of the phrase ある限り, but I don't know if that's actually true. ^

Just don't be too intimidated when you come across this one:

あらんかぎりの勇気をふりしぼって、彼女に結婚を申し込んだ。
あらんかぎり の ゆうき を ふりしぼって、 かのじょ に けっこん を もうしこんだ。
I mustered all of the courage that I had, and I asked her to marry me.
Literally: “as much as possible / all + の + courage + を + muster / force out (and), + she + に + marriage + を + requested.”


Although we're making good progress with 限り, we still have a ways to go.

In total, we'll have eight or so lessons looking at different forms and uses of 限り. *_*

Hang in there. I won't throw them all at you at once.

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