893 - だけ

JLPT N3: だけ (as much as)

だけ, as you may know, is a word meaning "only," "just," "nothing more than," etc.

For example, in the lesson "Japanese I Always Get Wrong," we saw this dialogue:

りょうて とも いたい の?
Do both of your hands hurt?
Literally: “both hands + とも + painful + の?”

ううん、 かたて だけ。
No, just one hand.
Literally: “no + one hand + only.”

In that lesson, I also happen to talk about how I have a bad habit of (incorrectly) saying だけ when I should be saying しか~ない.

Anyway, だけ has another usage, aside from when you want to say "just," "only," etc. It can mean something like "as much as."


We'll just dive right into an example:

つき に いっかい くらい は、 のみたい だけ のんでも だいじょうぶ です よ ね。
Once a month or so, it’s all right to drink as much as you want, don’t you think?
Literally: “month + に + once + just + は, + want to drink + だけ + even if (you) drink + OK / all right + です + よ + ね.”

We have 飲みたい (のみたい // want to drink).

Then we attach だけ to it, and we get 飲みたいだけ (のみたいだけ // as much as [you] want to drink).

In short, we can attach だけ to the end of words when we want to say "[word] to the max" or "to the limit of [word]."


👷 Construction 👷

We need to put a plain-form word in front of だけ to form these "as much as" phrases:

Plain-Form Wordだけ

In the case of na-adjectives, we also need to slip a in there:


We CANNOT put a noun before だけ when forming sentences like this. That is not to say that nouns never come before だけ at all. When the meaning is "only" or "just," nouns often do come before だけ, as we saw in the sentence:

ううん、 かたて だけ。
No, just one hand.
Literally: “no + one hand + only.”

However, when the meaning is "as much as," we won't put nouns before だけ.


There are two patterns in which I see this grammatical だけ being used the most often:

- できるだけas much as [one] can
- 好きだけすきなだけ // as much as [one] likes

Let's see these in some sentences...

きょう は できる だけ はやく かえって きて ね。
Come home as early as you can today, OK?
Literally: “today + は + can do + だけ + quickly / early + return home (and) + come (and) + ね.”

クッキー を たくさん やいた ので、 どうぞ すきな だけ たべて ください。
I baked a lot of cookies, so please, help yourself to as many as you’d like.
Literally: “cookie + を + many + baked / cooked + ので (=because), + by all means / go ahead + liked + だけ + eat (and) + please.”


Last of all, we have a sentence in which our English translation does not include the phrase "as [much] as:"

わたし が しっている だけ の こと は きのう すべて はなしました。
I told you everything that I know yesterday.
Literally: “I + が + am knowing + だけ + の + thing + は + yesterday + all / everything + spoke.”

Because the word すべて (all / everything) is in the sentence, I thought that using the word "everything" was better than putting something like: "I told you as much as I know yesterday."

At the end of the day, however, decisions like this vary from translator to translator.


You've done it! Another grammar point mastered.